Fireworks Dictionary

Fireworks Dictionary






An effect that looks like a cluster of bees swarming around in the sky




A pattern shell that looks like a bowtie when it goes off.


A spider-like shell burst pattern. Generally has silver tail effect, and is brighter than willow or tiger tail-style bursts.



A repeating aerial firework consisting of many shots, named after its usual short, cake-like appearance. Cakes consist of one fuse attached to several tubes (sometimes hundreds) which fire in sequence, launching a variety effects into the air, including comets, crossettes, whistles, reports, mines, spinners, and flying fish. See repeater.



A dense, spherical burst of stars that retains its shape before fading. This is the most well-known type of firework shell break.


Basically a large star that emits thick showers of bright sparks on the way up



Clusters of small, sharp reports


A comet that contains an internal burst charge of flash/black powder that causes it to burst into several fragments



A burst pattern similar to a peony, but with larger and fewer stars.


Dragon Eggs

Clusters of crackling sparks in the air


A type of Peony or Chrysanthemum with a center cluster of non-moving stars, normally of a contrasting color or effect. The name comes from the Latin word for "jewel".


Falling leaves

An effect that looks like falling leaves



The last portion of a firework display. During a finale, the largest, loudest, and most exotic fireworks are ignited in huge quantities and in a short amount of time, creating an intense and beautiful display


A type of aerial effect that looks like a swarm of glowing objects flying around randomly. The effect is created using small chunks of fast-burning fuse that actually propel themselves through the air when lit.



A small rolled paper tube containing flash powder, typically braided by their fuses into long strings. When the fuse is lit, the flame travels to the inside of the firecracker and ignites the powder, causing it to explode. In the United States, firecrackers can only contain 50 mg of flash powder.



A device that functions by combustion to create visible and audible effects for the purpose of entertainment. In the United States, fireworks are divided into two groups: those that can be bought by the public (Consumer Fireworks) and those that can only be used by professionals (Display/Professional Fireworks)



A type of tail effect consisting of bright flashes of light left behind by a star



Firework that produces upward showers of sparks. Also called gerbs



A spinning horizontal wheel that lifts off and flies up into the sky, where it usually ends with a report or burst of stars and effects.



See fountain



A tail effect consisting of bright flashes of light and small explosive bursts


A self-propelled star that flies around randomly in the air.


A spinner with wings that flies into the air. Properly called a tourbillion

Illegal Explosives

Any salute that contains more than 50 mg of flash powder, such as M-80s, Cherry Bombs, and Silver Salutes. They are not fireworks. Illegal explosives are extremely dangerous, and have caused many injuries.

Jumping Jacks

Small tubes fused together in packs, which look identical to firecrackers. When lit, they spin around on the ground with red and green flames.


Jupiter rings

An effect that is designed to look like the rings of Jupiter in the sky



A small, powerful explosive created by the military (supposedly that's what the M is for) for use as a grenade/gunfire simulator, and later sold as a large firecracker. Once very popular in the U.S., but was banned by the CPSC as part of the Child Protection Act in 1966 due to the thousands of serious injuries they caused. Often classified as a "firework", especially by the anti-fireworks media, even though it is NOT a firework.

Mine (star mine)

A firework similar to a shell that explodes in a mortar, igniting effects such as stars and launching them in a fan-shaped pattern into the air. Not to be confused with military land mines.



A type of rocket that uses fins rather than a stick for guidance.



Tube from which aerial fireworks such as shells and mines are ejected. Can be made from cardboard, high density polyethylene, or fiberglass. PVC should NEVER be used.

Mortar Rack

A wooden or metal frame that contains many mortars


Shell with numerous compartments, each one bursting separately


A small firework shaped like a animal, vehicle, or structure. Novelties emit small sprays of sparks, crackle, and whistle, and often move around on little wheels.

Palm tree

A comet shell that burns with a thick tail of sparks on the way up, then breaks several spreading "branches" of sparks

Pattern shell

Shell that breaks in a pattern that resembles something, such as a ring or a heart.


Single color star, launched from the ground. This is the effect from most roman candles.


Loosely symmetrical break of stars without trails that fly outward and then begin to droop downward


A central effect that can be added to a Peony or Chrysanthemum for bigger impact

PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

Plastic pipe that should NEVER be used for mortars since it can shatter into razor sharp pieces.


A stick of compressed sawdust that burns extremely slow, used for igniting consumer fireworks



A wooden frame used to hold mortars, or a device used for launching rockets



A style of firework that involves reloading a shell into a mortar tube. A reload kit comes with multiple shells and at least one mortar tube.


Firework which fires multiple aerial effects into the sky. Sometimes called a cake.


An explosion such as one from a firecracker or bottle rocket.

Rising Effect

Things such as whistles, stars, crackles, etc. that are released by a shell during its ascent



A firework that is propelled by a rocket engine into the air, where it releases its effects. Rockets are almost never used anymore in public fireworks displays.


Roman candle

Tube -shaped device that fires a series of stars into the air



Loud report without stars or colors

Safe and Sane

Consumer fireworks that do not explode or contain aerial effects. Includes fountains, novelties, smoke devices, sparklers, and snaps.


Set Piece

A ground item that is set up on a framework that when lit up looks like a real world item, spells something out, or creates an animation.


Short term for Aerial Shell

Shell of Shells

A large shell that contains smaller shells as well as stars, and upon bursting ignite the smaller shells and create secondary bursts


Refers to the number of effects in a fireworks device, such as  10-shot roman candle or a 25-shot aerial repeater.

Silver Salute

An illegal explosive similar to an M-80 (but slightly longer) with a silver tube.


Smiley Face

An effect that looks like a smiling face in the sky.This can be  an effect on a rocket,  on a reload set, or in a cake item.

Smoke Item

A firework that generates smoke as a primary effect, including smoke balls and smoke canisters.


A small black pellet that, when lit, burns slowly to produce a long column of brittle ash that resembles a snake coming out of the ground.


A tiny, light-emitting particle ejected from a burning composition


A wire or stick coated in a pyrotechnic composition that gives off sparks while burning.


Refers to the individual burning particles in a firework. Creates the colored flames in the sky when they are burned. Multiple stars are placed into a shell to create the desired effect.


Bright stars that each flash repeatedly. Also refers to a consumer fireworks device that emits a series of extremely bright flashes


The trail of sparks that follow a star as it rises and / or falls


Tiger Tail

Much like a standard tail, but is more dense, and is designed to look like the stripes of a tiger's tail.

Titanium report

Loud explosion in the air with white sparks


See helicopter


An intense barrage of shells or rockets



Device that spins rapidly using drivers, emitting sparks, whistles, and other effects


Tube that spins in the air giving off showers of sparks


High-pitched shriek caused by air rushing through a partly hollow tube


Falling trails of sparks. Designed to look like a willow tree.


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