How Well Do You Know Plumbing Slang?



By: Jacqueline Samaroo

6 Min Quiz

Image: Sturti / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Plungers in hand! Get ready to prove how fluid your knowledge of plumbing jargon really is!

Properly functioning plumbing systems are an integral part of modern life. In fact, ever since people began living communally in villages, towns and cities, the logistics of providing clean water and removing waste water have been of utmost importance. This is why civilizations depend so heavily on plumbing and on the services which plumbers provide.

This old and noble profession has, over time, developed its own unique tools, best practices, guidelines and, of course, lingo. Here are some choice plumbing phrases for you to decipher - some of which have certainly caused more than a few raised eyebrows! Will they surprise you or will you be "snaking" your way through this quiz with ease? Don't get "cocky" now. Take the quiz and see how you do!

Professional plumbers will be completely fluent in the trade's jargon and they, for sure, won't let this quiz "baffle" them. If you are a handy do-it-yourselfer, then these terms shouldn't leave you "sweating" either!

Feel like "coupling" your knowledge of plumbing with your love of quizzes? Then go right ahead and take the quiz - we hope you don't "run" out of right answers!

What is the term for a component which regulates the direction and speed of fluids in an appliance?

A baffle is an object such as a plate or screen which causes a fluid (liquid or gas) to change the direction of its flow. It can also act to slow down the fluids or prevent sloshing and mixing.


Which gender-related name do plumbers use for screw grooves found on the outside of a fitting?

Threading is described as “male” when it is on the outside of a fitting and “female” when it is on the inside. A fitting with male threads can be screwed into a fitting with female threads to make a connection.


Can you identify the term plumbers use for a paste-like lubricating sealant?

Plumbers routinely use pipe dope as a precautionary measure when connecting threaded pipes. The pipe dope is applied to the threads of both pipes before they are fitted together and helps to provide a watertight seal.


Which body part name do plumbers use for a small length of pipe which is threaded at both ends?

The threading at either end of a nipple helps it to serve as a connector between two other plumbing components. By definition, a nipple has male threading on both ends, that is, it has threading on the outside. The coupling is similar but has the threading on the inside.


What term do plumbers use for the flipping valve found at the bottom of a toilet tank?

The flapper’s job is to open so that water can flow from the tank into the toilet bowl and then close with a watertight seal once the flush cycle is complete. The term “flapper” can refer to the entire valve or just the movable piece which flips up and down.


A set which includes the toilet, basin and tub goes by what name?

One official definition of a bathroom group is “a single water closet, a lavatory and a bathtub or shower which are all located within a single room.” Generally speaking, however, aside from these fixtures, the group may also include any number of the following: a combination bath/shower, a bidet and a urinal.


Which plumbing term refers to using a long, flexible piece of thin metal to clear stubborn clogs from a drain?

The plumber’s snake is a type of drill, called an auger, which is very useful for unclogging drains and pipes when a plunger cannot get the job done. There are different snake designs for working on bathtub, sink and toilet drains. The plumber’s snake goes by other names, including drain snake and toilet jack/auger.


Which of these is a general plumbing term for a faucet?

The stopcock (or simply cock) is used to regulate the flow of water in a pipeline and to stop the flow entirely when the cock is fully closed. Stopcocks come in various designs and go by such names as bibcock, sillcock and petcock.


Can you spot the endearing term plumbers use for a shutoff valve which rises up from its seat?

A poppet valve rises up to open and allow the flow of liquids through a pipe and slides back down to shut off the flow. One very common example of a poppet valve can be seen on the top of some water and juice bottles.


The annoying knocking sometimes heard inside pipes is called what by plumbers?

When a pipe carrying water at high pressure is suddenly closed, it can cause a shock wave to be set up in the pipe. The resulting knocking and vibrating inside the pipe is a phenomenon known as "water hammer." It can be strong enough to break the pipe and damage fixtures it is attached to.


The sleeve covering a water heater gets called by what plumbing term?

Despite its name, a water heater should not be hot, or even warm, on the outside. Most new heaters already have an insulating jacket, but owners of older models can purchase a jacket to fit their heater. While the jacket is made to fit a particular tank, a more customizable option is the water heater blanket.


A type of connector with threading on the inside goes by what plumbing term?

Couplings or couplers are small and have female (or internal) threading at either end. They are similar to nipples which serve the same basic function but have the threading on the outside.


What is the plumbing term for a type of bent drainpipe typically found under a sink?

The P-trap gets its name from its shape since it looks like a letter “p” turned on its side. The water which remains in the P-trap acts as a barrier to noxious sewer gases passing back into the room. Other types of bent drainpipes include the ones shaped like the letters S, U and J.


Which plumbing term is one explanation for why iron and copper pipes deteriorate over time?

Metal pipes undergo bending, flexing, contraction and expansion. Over time, this leads to metal fatigue where the material develops tiny cracks and becomes weaker. The weakened pipe is then very likely to break under pressure.


Can you spot the “active” term plumbers use for the length of pipe from a fixture to the drain?

Generally, pipe run is described as a measurement of the length of pipe between a fixture and the drain. Technically, the term run is used in plumbing as it is in many other disciplines to specify that it is the horizontal distance which is being considered.


What is the plumbing term for a substance which aids the bonding process during soldering of copper pipes?

Flux has the consistency of a paste which can be applied separately when soldering or sweating. Quite often nowadays, however, the solder wire is made with the flux embedded in it. The type of flux plumbers use is sometimes referred to as “active flux” or “plumber’s flux.”


Which is the colorful term plumbers use for liquid waste from sinks, tubs and showers?

The term “gray water” usually refers to all waste water except from toilets, bidets and urinals. It is, therefore, considered to be “relatively clean.” Gray water is also called sullage.


Which term applies to the device which creates a seal around the base of the toilet?

The wax ring acts as a barrier against odors from the toilet’s trap seeping into the room. It can also block liquids, but that is not its primary function. Wax rings are designed to last indefinitely, although a loosely fitted toilet could cause the wax ring to also become loose and in need of replacing.


Which of these is a sealant which takes its name from the professionals who use it?

Plumber’s putty is very moldable and makes a watertight seal when applied. It is one of the standard items every plumber has, as it is ideal for molding around connections and at the base of fixtures. Its main ingredients include clay and flax oil.


Its shape and action causes plumbers to refer to the drain cleaning bladder by what term?

The blow bag, blowfish or drain-cleaning bladder is one method plumbers have at their disposal to clear a blocked drain. A regular garden hose is fitted to one end of the blow bag which has a special valve at the other end. Once enough water is collected in the blow bag, the valve opens and the water rushes out with great force to clear the drain


What is the term plumbers use for a valve which releases a predetermined amount of water into a toilet?

A flushometer is sometimes referred to as a flush valve, but there is another plumbing component which also bears that name. Flushometers are automatic water conservation devices and are typically found on commercial-grade toilets, bidets and urinals.


What term do plumbers use for waste from toilets?

While black water is wastewater from toilets, bidets and urinals, other sources such as sinks, tubs and showers produce what is called gray water. Black water can also refer to water which is contaminated by certain chemicals.


Do you know which plumbing term is used for the valve which controls refilling of toilet tank after a flush?

The ballcock is attached to a float by a metal arm. Flushing the toilet causes the float to drop which in turn activates the ballcock to start refilling the tank. The rising water raises the float which shuts off the ballcock at the appropriate height.


What do plumbers call it when a bubble in a pipeline restricts the flow of water?

Air locks are typically unwanted occurrences in a water distribution system since they have the effect of cutting off the water supply. One way in which an air lock can be useful, however, is in the design of an S-trap where it prevents offensive odors from coming back up through the pipe.


Which other term do plumbers often use for a grease trap?

The grease interceptor or grease trap prevents oil and grease in wastewater from entering a septic tank or flowing on to a sewage treatment facility. The interceptor also works very well at removing solid food particles from wastewater.


A hole at floor level on a wall which allows water to drain away to the outside is known by what plumbing term?

Scuppers are simple features which help to prevent a buildup of rain water on roofs and decks which feature low walls around them. They can also be found in the sides of a ship’s deck where they allow both rainwater and seawater which has come aboard to run off.


Which of these is the plumbing term for the channel inside a toilet bowl?

The trapway serves as a passageway from the toilet bowl to the waste outlet. The size of a trapway refers to the largest diameter ball which can pass through it – the wider the trapway, the less likely it is to clog.


Do you know which of these terms plumbers use for a ventilating pipe which prevents siphonage?

A back vent is typically located on a waste pipe. It can be found on the sewer-side of the pipe’s trap preventing reverse flow in the pipe.


Which of these terms is used when a pipeline has to be bent or turned to go around an obstacle?

Offsetting is a common occurrence in plumbing, with most offsets positioned at a 45-degree or 22.5-degree angle. A 90-degree bend might not allow for free flow of water. The term “offset” can also be used when two connected pipes are no longer in alignment, resulting in a leak.


Which of these plumbing terms refers to the dangerous phenomenon of water flowing in reverse in a system?

Backflow can result in contaminated water mixing with potable water. It is a sanitation hazard and a very real health threat. Installation of a check valve, which only allows one-way flow of water, can assist with backflow prevention.


Can you spot the term a plumber is likely to use when referring to an outside faucet?

Hose bib typically refers to an outdoor faucet, with “hose” being used because these faucets are likely to have hoses attached to them. The faucets in a washroom to which a washing machine’s hoses are connected may also be referred to as hose bibs.


What do plumbers call the long, thin tube which carries cold water to the bottom of a water heater?

Many water heaters are designed with both the inlet and outlet at the top. The inlet pipe is attached to a dip tube inside the tank so that the cold water gets sent straight to the bottom of the tank where it is closest to the heating element.


The opening in a drain pipe which allows access for a plumber to clear a blockage goes by what name?

Having a cleanout on a drain pipe or trap can minimize or eliminate the amount of dismantling of pipes needed to clear stubborn blockages. It is a very convenient feature which saves time, money and effort.


Can you spot the term plumbers use for a component which helps to transition from a large pipe to a smaller one?

A reducer is a fairly small connector which is wider at one end than at the other. It is used to join pipes of different diameter and can have the desired effect of increasing water pressure in the second (smaller) pipe. Reducers are a type of coupling.


What term is used for the area of land where the liquid from a septic tank is sent to have contaminants and impurities removed?

It is not uncommon for homeowners to plant on top of a leach field. Apart from beautification, landscaping the area also serves the purpose of preventing soil erosion and helping the leach field function at its best.


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