What Is Hertz in Electricity?

By Elisabeth Dahl; Updated April 24, 2017

The hertz is a familiar unit in the measurement of electricity--as common a word at home supply stores as amp or volt. Like some other units of measure, the hertz (abbreviated Hz) was named after an accomplished scientist.


A hertz is an international measure of electrical frequency, with 1 Hz being one cycle per second.

Heinrich Hertz

According to IEEE.org, Heinrich Hertz (1857 - 1894) was born in Hamburg, Germany, and received his doctoral degree in physics in 1880.

Maxwell's Theory

In the mid-19th century, James Clerk Maxwell, a British scientist, theorized that the interaction of magnetic and electrical fields produces electromagnetic waves. Some scientists and engineers questioned the theory's validity.

Hertz's Experiments

Hertz's experiments on radio waves confirmed Maxwell's theories about electromagnetic waves and the electromagnetic spectrum.

International Variations

Electrical outlets have different frequencies in different countries.

Electrical outlets have different frequencies in different countries. For instance, while outlets in the United States, Canada and Aruba have frequencies of 60 Hz, outlets in China and Denmark are 50 Hz.

About the Author

Elisabeth Dahl is a freelance writer and copyeditor who has worked in publishing since 1991. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Arts degree from Georgetown University, where she was a Writing Center Associate Fellow.