Buying any new display device can be daunting, and liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) are no exception. You’ll encounter a myriad of otherwise confusing terms. While you may know the definition of some of these terms, you probably won’t them all them. You can refer to this list, however, for a breakdown of the different LCD terms and their respective definition.


LCDs are designed with two layers of light-polarizing material. Known simply are polarizers, they are designed to control the type of light that shines through from the underlying backlighting. The polarizers essentially convert unpolarized light into polarized light, thereby producing images that you can see on the display screen.


Like many other types of display devices, LCDs are designed with backlighting. The liquid pixels from which they are comprised aren’t capable of illuminating themselves. Rather, they rely on a separate lighting system known as backlighting. Most LCDs use light-emitting diode (LED) backlighting, which is found behind the polarizers.

Twisted Nematic

Twisted nematic is a special type of LCD technology that lives up to its namesake by twisting, as well untwisting, the liquid pixels at the various degrees. When the liquid pixels are twisted and untwisted, the amount of light that passes through them can be controlled.

In-Plane Switching

Another type of LCD technology is in-plane switching. With in-plane switching, the liquid pixels are aligned parallel to each other on the glass substrate. An electrical field is then transferred to the substrate, thereby powering the liquid crystals.


Resolution refers to the number of individual pixels in an LCD. It reflects the total number of vertical pixels by the total number of horizontal pixels, such as 1024×768. A higher resolution means more pixels — and that means a higher-quality display with clearer images.


While LCDs have pixels, they have subpixels within these pixels. Each pixel in an LCD typically has three subpixels. They have a red subpixel, a green subpixel and a blue subpixel. When the LCD is turned on, only some of these subpixels will activate so that it achieves the appropriate color as indicated on the display.

Screen Burn-In

Screen burn-in is a phenomenon that affects many types of display devices. It involves an image becoming permanently “burned” into the display. The good news is that LCDs don’t experience screen burn-in because they don’t contain phosphor compounds. Screen burn-in only occurs with display devices that contain phosphor compounds.