[thur-muh-kuhp-uh l]

noun Physics.

a device that consists of the junction of two dissimilar metallic conductors, as copper and iron, in which an electromotive force is induced when the conductors are maintained at different temperatures, the force being related to the temperature difference: used to determine the temperature of a third substance by connecting it to the junction of the metals and measuring the electromotive force produced.

Origin of thermocouple

First recorded in 1885–90; thermo- + couple
Also called thermoelectric couple, thermoelectric thermometer. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for thermocouple

Historical Examples of thermocouple

  • Coblentz first studied the problem of heat production in the firefly, using a thermocouple as the measuring instrument.

  • The thermocouple glowed red, and electricity jumped in the copper veins, turning the metal bone into a magnet.

    The Jewels of Aptor

    Samuel R. Delany

  • She fastened two wires to two other wires, adjusted the lens, and the tips of the thermocouple glowed red.

    The Jewels of Aptor

    Samuel R. Delany

  • When Frank examined the sun-powered tractor, he found that tiny platinum plates had been taken from the thermocouple units.

    The Planet Strappers

    Raymond Zinke Gallun

  • This large, squat telescope catches and concentrates on the thermocouple and the galvanometer registers the temperature.

British Dictionary definitions for thermocouple



a device for measuring temperature consisting of a pair of wires of different metals or semiconductors joined at both ends. One junction is at the temperature to be measured, the second at a fixed temperature. The electromotive force generated depends upon the temperature difference
a similar device with only one junction between two dissimilar metals or semiconductors

Word Origin for thermocouple

C19: from thermo- + couple
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for thermocouple

1890, from thermo- + couple.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

thermocouple in Medicine




A thermoelectric device used to measure temperatures accurately, especially one consisting of two dissimilar metals joined so that a potential difference generated between the points of contact is a measure of the temperature difference between the points.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

thermocouple in Science



A thermoelectric device used to make accurate measurements of temperatures, especially high temperatures. It consists of a circuit having two wires of different metals or metal alloys welded together. A temperature gradient across the junction of the wires gives rise to an electric potential by the Seebeck effect. This potential varies with the strength of the temperature gradient and can be measured by a voltmeter. Thermocouples can also be used to generate small amounts of electricity for powering other devices.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

thermocouple in Culture


A device for accurate measurement of temperature. A thermocouple consists of two dissimilar metals joined at two joints in a loop so that the difference in voltage can be measured. Because voltage changes in proportion to temperature, the voltage difference indicates temperature differences.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.