power, in physics, time rate of doing work or of producing or expending energy. The unit of power based on the English units of measurement is the horsepower, devised for describing mechanical power by James Watt, who estimated that a horse can do 550 ft-lb of work per sec; a foot-pound is the work done when a weight (force) of 1 lb is moved through a distance of 1 ft. The unit of power in the metric system is the watt, named in honor of James Watt and equal to 1 joule per sec; the watt is used for measuring electric power in most countries, even those still using English units for other quantities. In common usage, the terms power and energy have become synonymous; for example, electrical energy is usually referred to as electric power (see power, electric). See also energy, sources of.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.