What Do The Symbols On A Multimeter Mean?

A multimeter, in a nutshell, is basically an electronic device/tool that measures voltage, resistance, and current.  It is, thus, a unit that has multiple measurement functions integrated into it.

There are mainly two types of multimeters—digital meters and analog multimeters.

Analog meters use a needle to render measurement while digital multimeters showcase a numeric display.

Digital meters are more popular of the two simply because they offer more accurate and consistent readings. They are also easier to use and read.  

A multimeter basically comprises of four different parts—the display, buttons, dial/rotary switch, and input jacks/ports. The display shows the readings of the measurements.

The buttons offer you different options and positioning, depending on the kind of multimeter you opt for. The dial/rotary switch allows you to choose the unit of measurement you require. And, the input jacks/ ports are places where you put your test leads.

What Do The Symbols On A Multimeter Mean?

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a multimeter is and what it is used for, you need to understand the symbols of a multimeter to operate it efficiently. 

Most of the popular brands of multimeters use standard symbols. Without beating about the bush any further, let´s talk about the symbols on a multimeter.

Hold button

The hold button basically holds/locks the meter reading and lets you remember the exact reading of what you are measuring.

This button is typically useful when you can´t see the multimeter while you are testing with the probes.

AC Voltage

AC voltage is a common setting in all types of multimeters. It allows you to test voltages in your home or workplace.

Depending on where you reside, the multimeter usually measures between 100-240 volts AC. This multimeter symbol is identified as a capital ¨V¨ with a wavy line above it.

DC Voltage

This button is basically a capital ¨V¨, and it boasts of three hyphens (—) above it.

You can also find a straight single line on the top of the hyphens. This setting allows you to examine and test small electronic circuits, batteries, and indicator lights.

Shift: Hertz

Shift: Hertz is commonly the shifted reading above the AC Voltage option, labeled ¨Hz.¨

This particular symbol tells you the frequency of your equipment or circuit.


This button bears a similar resemblance to a group of closed-end parenthesis in a row.

To be more precise, the symbol of continuity looks like the symbol of sound. What is its function? Well, it is basically an effective way for finding short circuits, or open circuits.

Current Jack

The current jack is a red jack that has a ¨A¨ above it.

It should only be used to measure currents with either clamp attachments, or with a red lead.

Common Jack

The common jack is a black jack that has ¨COM¨ written above it.

It is usually located in the center between two black jacks. Although it is compatible with all measurements, it must only be used with black test leads.

Shift Capacitance

If you see two ¨T¨ letters facing each other, it is the shift option on your Diode Test button: If you need to measure your capacitance, you now know where to go.

However, you should bear in mind that there are some capacitors that will have electric charge stored in them, even after you turn off the power supply. Hence, it is essential for you to safely discharge the capacitors before measuring their capacitance.

Range Button

The range button is most often found across the top of your multimeter. It has a ¨Lo/Hi¨ symbol. The range button is used to cycle between different ranges of your meter.

Although some meters have auto-ranging, others facilitate the option of selecting a specific range. For instance, you may like to know what your Ohms reading is in mega-ohms.

Brightness Indicator

The brightness indicator allows you to either lighten or darken your screen, making it convenient for you to read when you are taking measurement outdoors.

Alternating Current

If you find a button that has a capital ¨A¨ with a squiggly line above it, it is the Alternating current button.

AC Millivolts

The AC millivolts resemble a ¨mV¨ with a squiggly line on top of the V.

It is used to test smaller circuits using the AC Voltage setting that are especially low.

symbols on a multimeter

Shift DC Millivolts

This is usually right next to the AC Millivolts button.

It is another ¨road¨ symbol and has three hyphens with a straight line over them. Although it works similarly to AC Millivolts, it uses DC Voltage.


Ohms bear a close resemblance to an Omega letter. Basically, it enables you to get an accurate reading of resistance.

This button can also be expertly used to test the condition of fuses, helping you identify a blown fuse. You should only proceed to test fuses with the ohms setting when they are out of the circuit.

Diode Test

It is a plus sign next to an arrow pointed towards the right.

The diode test setting helps you test and identify the condition or your diodes.

Red Jack

This is the other red jack, usually on the right-hand side of your multimeter.

It will have a variety of symbols of measurement above it.


With so many symbols to learn and identify, the task of safely and efficiently operating a multimeter may seem a tad bit overwhelming at first.

However, you shouldn´t be discouraged as you can get the hang of it through regular use.

There are also numerous helpful posts, articles, and videos etc., found online that can help you operate the tool and understand the mechanics of a multimeter.

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