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An instrument designed to measure electrical quantities. A typical multimeter can measure alternating- and direct-current potential differences (voltages), current, and resistance, with several full-scale ranges provided for each quantity. Sometimes referred to as a volt-ohm meter (VOM), it is a logical development of the electrical meter, providing a general-purpose instrument. Many kinds of special-purpose multimeters are manufactured to meet the needs of such specialists as telephone engineers and automobile mechanics testing ignition circuits. See Ammeter, Current measurement, Ohmmeter, Resistance measurement, Voltage measurement, Voltmeter

Multimeters originated when all electrical measuring instruments used analog techniques. They were generally based on a moving-coil indicator, in which a pointer moves across a graduated scale. Accuracy was typically limited to about 2%, although models achieving 0.1% were available. Analog multimeters are still preferred for some applications. For most purposes, digital instruments are now used. In these, the measured value is presented as a row of numbers in a window. Inexpensive hand-held models perform at least as well as a good analog design. High-resolution multimeters have short-term errors as low as 0.1 part per million (ppm) and drift less than 5 ppm in one year. Many digital multimeters can be commanded by, and send their indications to, computers or control equipment.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Physics. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


[′məl·tə‚mēd·ər or məl′tim·əd·ər]
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


An instrument for measuring electricity (volts, amps, ohms) that is widely used and available in numerous shapes and sizes. An analog multimeter displays results by moving a pointer across a printed scale. The movement of the pointer helps to show gradual changes, but is less precise than its digital counterpart. A digital multimeter (DMM) displays the exact measurement on a numeric LCD or LED readout.
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