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Amount of work needed to move a unit electric charge from a reference point to a specific point against an electric field. The potential energy of a positive charge increases when it moves against an electric field, and decreases when it moves with the field. Electric potential can be thought of as potential energy per unit charge. The work done in moving a unit charge from one point to another, as in an electric circuit, is equal to the difference in potential energies at each point. Electric potential is expressed in units of joules per coulomb, or volts.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on electric potential, visit Britannica.com.