# Frequency vs. Hertz — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on November 3, 2023
Frequency is the rate of occurrence, while Hertz is the unit measuring frequency, specifically cycles per second.

## Key Differences

Frequency in physics refers to the number of times a repeating event occurs per unit time. Hertz (Hz), on the other hand, is the derived SI unit used to quantify the frequency of these repeating events, with one hertz equating to one cycle per second. Frequency is a general concept that applies to any cyclical process, while hertz is specifically a measure of electromagnetic waves and other periodic processes in physics.
When discussing frequency, it could relate to various contexts, such as sound, light, or electrical signals. Hertz comes into play as a practical unit of measure, indicating how often the event occurs, such as a sound wave vibrating at 440 cycles per second, or 440 Hz. Frequency determines the pitch in sound or the color of light, but hertz gives us a standardized way to express these frequencies numerically.
Frequency can be observed in many natural phenomena, from the oscillation of a pendulum to the cycles of the moon. Hertz, while used to measure these occurrences, is particularly relevant in the context of waves, where it quantifies the vibrations or cycles that occur in a second. It is a specific term that originated from Heinrich Hertz's work, who first demonstrated radio waves, hence the name.
In daily life, frequency might refer to less technical and more generalized rates of occurrence, such as the frequency of bus arrivals. Hertz, however, is used in more scientific and technical fields, such as engineering and physics, where precise measurements are necessary. For example, the electricity in your home might operate at a frequency of 60 Hz.
High frequency signals are those with a large number of cycles per second, and these would consequently have a high value in hertz. For instance, FM radio stations broadcast in the megahertz range, signifying millions of cycles per second. It's important to note that while all hertz measurements are frequencies, not all frequencies are necessarily measured in hertz, especially outside of scientific contexts.

## Comparison Chart

### Definition

Rate of occurrence of an event
Unit of measurement for frequency

### Context

General concept
Specific to cycles per second

### Usage

Scientific, precise measurement

### Origin

From Latin 'frequentia'
Named after Heinrich Hertz

### Measured In

Can be in cycles, occurrences
Exclusively in cycles per second

## Compare with Definitions

#### Frequency

Frequency is how often something happens
The frequency of her visits has increased lately.

#### Hertz

Hertz is a unit measuring frequency in cycles per second
The middle C note has a frequency of 261.63 Hz.

#### Frequency

In physics, frequency is the number of wave cycles per second
Light's frequency determines its color.

#### Hertz

Hertz can determine sound and light characteristics
Red light has a lower hertz than blue light.

#### Frequency

Frequency can denote regularity of occurrence
He noted the high frequency of errors in the document.

#### Hertz

Hertz is used to quantify electromagnetic wave frequencies
FM stations broadcast in the range of megahertz.

#### Frequency

The frequency of an event can vary over time
The frequency of rainfalls changes with seasons.

#### Hertz

Electronic devices operate at specific hertz frequencies
His CPU has a clock speed of 3.5 GHz.

#### Frequency

Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also occasionally referred to as temporal frequency to emphasize the contrast to spatial frequency, and ordinary frequency to emphasize the contrast to angular frequency.

#### Hertz

One hertz equals one cycle per time second
This radio wave operates at 2.4 billion hertz, or GHz.

#### Frequency

The rate at which something occurs over a particular period of time or in a given sample
An increase in the frequency of accidents due to increased overtime

#### Hertz

The hertz (symbol: Hz) is the derived unit of frequency in the International System of Units (SI) and is defined as one cycle per second. It is named after Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1857-1894), the first person to provide conclusive proof of the existence of electromagnetic waves.

#### Frequency

The rate per second of a vibration constituting a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves), or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light)
Different thicknesses of glass will absorb different frequencies of sound

#### Hertz

The SI unit of frequency, equal to one cycle per second.

#### Frequency

The property or condition of occurring at frequent intervals.

#### Hertz

A unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second. See Table at measurement.

#### Frequency

The number of repetitions of a complete sequence of values of a periodic function per unit variation of an independent variable.

#### Hertz

In the International System of Units, the derived unit of frequency; one (period or cycle of any periodic event) per second. Symbol: Hz

#### Frequency

The number of complete cycles of a periodic process occurring per unit time.

#### Hertz

A unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second; it is abbreviated Hz. It is commonly used to specify the frequency of radio waves, and also the clock frequencies in digital computers. For these applications, kilohertz and megahertz are the most commonly used units, derived from hertz.

#### Frequency

The number of repetitions per unit time of a complete waveform, as of an electric current.

#### Hertz

The unit of frequency; one Hertz has a periodic interval of one second

#### Frequency

The number of measurements or observations having a certain value or characteristic.

#### Hertz

German physicist who was the first to produce electromagnetic waves artificially (1857-1894)

#### Frequency

See relative frequency.

#### Hertz

German physicist who with James Franck proved the existence of the stationary energy states postulated by Bohr (1887-1975)

#### Frequency

The rate of occurrence of anything; the relationship between incidence and time period.
With growing confidence, the Viking’s raids increased in frequency.

#### Frequency

(uncountable) The property of occurring often rather than infrequently.

#### Frequency

(countable) The quotient of the number of times $n$ a periodic phenomenon occurs over the time $t$ in which it occurs: $f = n / t$.

#### Frequency

(statistics) number of times an event occurred in an experiment (absolute frequency)

#### Frequency

The condition of returning frequently; occurrence often repeated; common occurence; as, the frequency of crimes; the frequency of miracles.
The reasons that moved her to remove were, because Rome was a place of riot and luxury, her soul being almost stifled with, the frequencies of ladies' visits.

#### Frequency

A crowd; a throng.

#### Frequency

The number of occurrences within a given time period (usually 1 second);
The frequency of modulation was 40 cycles per second

#### Frequency

The ratio of the number of observations in a statistical category to the total number of observations

#### Frequency

The number of observations in a given statistical category

#### Frequency

Sound frequency affects pitch
A higher frequency sound is perceived as a higher pitch.

## Common Curiosities

#### Who was Hertz named after?

Hertz was named after the German physicist Heinrich Hertz.

#### Can frequency be measured in units other than hertz?

Yes, frequency can be measured in other units, depending on the context.

#### Is frequency always a physical wave phenomenon?

No, frequency can refer to any repeating event, not just waves.

#### Is frequency used in everyday language?

Yes, frequency is used in everyday language to describe how often events occur.

#### Are hertz and frequency interchangeable?

Hertz is a unit of frequency, so they are related but not synonymous.

#### What does kHz stand for?

kHz stands for kilohertz, or one thousand hertz.

#### Why is hertz important in electronics?

Hertz is important in electronics to define signal and operational speeds.

#### Does higher frequency mean higher hertz?

Yes, a higher frequency means a higher number of hertz.

#### Do all waves have a frequency measurable in hertz?

Yes, all periodic waves have a frequency measurable in hertz.

#### What does frequency measure?

Frequency measures the rate at which a periodic event occurs over time.

#### Is there a maximum or minimum hertz?

There are no natural maximum or minimum hertz values, but practical limits exist based on the context.

#### How is frequency related to the pitch of sound?

Higher frequency sounds have a higher pitch and vice versa.

#### Can hertz be converted to other units?

Hertz specifically measures cycles per second and is not directly converted to non-time-based units.

#### Does light have a frequency?

Yes, light has a frequency that determines its color.

#### Can frequency affect the energy of a wave?

Yes, in electromagnetic waves, higher frequencies correspond to higher energy.

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