Skip to Content

The 11 Parts of a Lamp & What They Do

The 11 Parts of a Lamp & What They Do

A lamp seems like a simple enough home item. We conveniently purchase them, plug them in, and bask in their glow.

But knowing the parts of a lamp and what they do can help you make the best selection for your space and purpose. 

Parts of a Lamp: A Summary

Any lamp, regardless of style or size, has two sections that we can further divide into numerous parts. 

Upper Section

  • Lock
  • Lampshade fitting
  • Shade
  • Harp
  • Bulb 
  • Socket
  • Switch

Lower Section

  • Body
  • Plug
  • Base
  • Felt

You probably recognize most of these terms, with a few new ones you’d like to know more about. Let’s dive into each part and what it does to help give your space the perfect ambiance.

The 11 Parts of a Lamp in Detail

Various types of lamps in a lighting store


The section above the lamp body contains the complex electrical components and the structure that holds the shade. Let’s start at the top. 

1. Lock and Lampshade Fitting

The lampshade fitting is the portion of the shade that attaches to the top of the lamp.

It is usually round with a few spokes that go toward the center, where it attaches to the harp. A threaded nut goes on top to lock the shade fitting in place. 

2. Lampshade

Lampshade wall effect


Much of your lamp’s aesthetic comes from the lampshade. You can have a shade made from fabric, metal, glass beads, plastic, and many other materials.

The shade gives the lamp style, but it also has an important function. The main job of the lampshade is to veil the bulb’s brightness.

Even with soft white bulbs or dimmable LED lighting, you wouldn’t want to have the light directly in the space. The lampshade diffuses the light throughout the room to avoid harsh shadows and visually washed-out spots. 

Styles of Lampshades

  • Drum
  • Tapered Drum
  • Square
  • Hexagon
  • Dome
  • Bell
  • Empire
  • Rectangle 
  • Collie

Drum and tapered drum shades are cylindrical shades. The tapered drum gets smaller toward the top without closing at a point like a cone.

An empire shade is similar to a tapered drum but has a steeper angle, with the bottom circumference being much wider than the top.

Some shades close at the top. A collie shad is a wide cone, and the dome shade is a half-sphere. Square and rectangle shades are not cylinders but have crisp corners.

The hexagon also has corners but usually has a tapered look, with the top hexagon being smaller than the bottom. 

The bell shade is similar to the tapered drum, but the sides scoop gently inward toward the middle of the shade and widen out again at the top. 

3. Harp

The harp on a lamp is not of the heavenly stringed instrument kind. The harp is a metal frame that attaches to the socket, encircles the bulb, and supports the shade. 

4. Bulb

Replacing the bulb


Of course, the bulb provides the light in your lamp. Most lamps work well with a standard 120-watt bulb. Other choices depend on the room you are lighting. Dimmable LED bulbs are great for bedrooms and living rooms.

They are also more economical since they last much longer. Three-way bulbs have three brightness settings and are nice in living rooms as well. Ultimately, your bulb choice depends on what kind of socket is on the lamp because they must be compatible. 

5. Socket

Lamp sockets, also called lamp holders, are made of nickel, brass, porcelain, or other materials. The type of socket base partly determines what kind of bulb you can use to light your lamp. 

Types of Socket Bases

  • Screw bases
  • Fluorescent pin bases
  • Twist and lock bases
  • Bayonet bases
  • Bi-Pin bases

Socket Sizes

The most common type size for lamp sockets is the E type. It gets its initial name from Thomas Edison. These sockets have a screw base with a measurement in millimeters to tell you the size of the bulb.

For example, an E10 bulb is an E type with a 10mm base. E10 is for a small bulb, an E26 is for a medium bulb, and an E39 would accommodate a large bulb. 

Sockets come in a range of sizes because the bulb must fit snugly into the socket for the lamp to function safely and correctly.

Bulbs are not interchangeable across fixtures to prevent using an incorrect bulb for a particular lamp. A mismatch could be dangerous. 

Which bulb base you find on a lamp determines the voltage and wattage that you can use in that lamp. When purchasing light bulbs, you can find the socket compatibility printed on the box. 

Other E Type Sizes

  • E11
  • E12
  • E14
  • E17

6. Switch

Turning on lamp

Nattawit Khomsanit/Shutterstock

The switch is another electrical component that controls the ON and OFF functions. The switch is integrated into the electrical workings of the lamp. It can be attached to the socket or along the cord. 

Types of Switches

  • Push Button
  • Toggle
  • Rocker
  • Dimmer 
  • Variable brightness

You can also set up your lamp to be controlled by a wall switch. Plug the lamp into a wall outlet that is controlled by a wall switch. Set the lamp’s switch to ON. Now the lamp will work with the wall switch. 

7. Threaded Tube

Depending on the lamp design, there may be a threaded tube between the lamp holder and body. The threading is on the outside of the tube, as on a screw. It makes a stable connection between the upper part of the lamp and the body. 

8. Body

Brass lamp body

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Like the shade, the body serves both aesthetic and functional purposes. It can be constructed from wood, metal, porcelain, ceramic, glass, or nearly any material you can think of. 

No matter how tall the lamp is, the body has a hollow space for the chord and plug to connect from the socket to the plug. 

9. Plug

Most lamp plugs are a two-pronged male adapter that fits into a two-pronged female receptacle. Some may have a third prong for grounded outlets. You can safely plug a two-prong plug into a three-hole grounded outlet. 

A grounded plug protects you from electric shocks when using a metal-encased appliance. If the lamp body is made of a conductive metal, you may want to ensure that the plug has three prongs. 

10. Base

Most lamps widen out at the very bottom to provide stability. The width and material of the base contribute to the lamp’s aesthetic as well. 

11. Felt

You’ll find that many lamps have felt or another non-slip material coating all or part of the bottom of the base. You won’t see this part unless you pick up the lamp to look at the bottom.

But the felt serves a crucial safety purpose. It keeps the lamp from sliding around on the table or bare floor where it sits. 

Things to Consider

It is helpful to know the parts of a lamp and how they work, so you can choose the best lamp for the space you want to light. 

  • The size of the room
  • Material of the body and shade
  • The shape of the shade
  • The socket-size type
  • The bulb type
  • The bulb’s wattage
  • The length of the chord
  • The type of switch

Frequently Asked Questions

End table lamp with a triangular shade for a piece on parts of a lamp

Nickolay Khoroshkov/Shutterstock

Below, we’ve listed some of the most frequently asked questions about the parts of a lamp.

What is the bottom part of a lamp called?

That depends on where you start calling it the bottom. The lower section of a lamp is made up of the body, plug, base, and felt. Usually, anything below the socket is called the bottom of a lamp.

What is that part of the lamp that holds the bulb called?

The bulb is held in place by the lamp holder or socket. These two names mean the part where the bulb attaches to the rest of the lamp. Bulbs and sockets have to match size type to function properly together.

What is the top part of a lamp called?

The top of the lamp consists of the socket, bulb, harp, and lock. The socket holds the bulb. The harp connects to the socket and extends upward around the bulb to support the lampshade. The lock nut goes on top of the harp to secure the shade in place.

What is the rod of a lamp called?

You can use the world rod, pole, and body interchangeably for the part of a lamp that extends from the base to the socket. The work you use likely has more to do with style than function. A tall, thin lamp body may be referred to as a rod or pole. A more shapely lamp may be said to have a body.

What is a lamp spider fitter?

A lamp spider fitter is the most common way for a lampshade to attach to the rest of the lamp. Three arms extend from the top of the shade to sit on top of the harp. It is usually secured by a lock nut.

So, What Are the Main Parts of a Lamp?

So, what are the parts of a lamp? The socket, switch, bulb, harp, lock nut, and lampshade comprise the upper half of a lamp.

The lower portion is made up of the body, base, plug, and anti-slip material on the bottom. The bulb and socket need to match for your lamp to function correctly and safely.