My students are often puzzled about when to call something “electric” (like “electric car”) vs when to call something “electronic” (like “electronic dictionary”).  The difference is subtle, but basically it amounts to this:

Electric: This term is used for devices or systems that use electricity to perform a basic function. For example, an “electric car” uses electricity to power its motor and move the vehicle, and an “electric heater” converts electrical energy into heat. An “electric tea kettle” uses electrical energy to boil water.

Electronic: This term is used for devices or systems that use electricity to control, process, or transmit information. These devices usually involve components like microchips, transistors, or circuits that manage electrical signals. For example, an “electronic dictionary” processes and displays digital information, and an “electronic watch” uses electronic circuits to keep and display the time.  I recently read an article about “electronic livestock tags” that keep track of the location of cows and report that information back to farmers.  There is a popular TOEFL practice question about “electronic medical records” that doctors use to store and transmit information about patients.

Do you get what I mean?

In summary, use “electric” for devices powered by electricity to perform physical tasks and “electronic” for devices that process information using electrical circuits.

And, yes, there are weird exceptions.  Don’t ask me why we refer to “electronic cigarettes.”  That doesn’t make sense to me.

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