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What is the term used for the third derivative

of position?
Philip Gibbs & Stephanie Gragert

November 1998

It is well known that the first derivative of position (symbol r) with respect to time is
velocity (symbol v) and the second is acceleration (symbol a). It is a little less well known
that there is no universally accepted name for derivative subsequent to acceleration.
However the third derivative, i.e. the rate of increase of acceleration, is technically known
as jerk (symbol j). In the UK jolt has sometimes been used instead of jerk and may be
equally acceptable, also if jerk appears to be the more common of the two. It is also reco-
gnised in international standards:

In ISO 2041 (1990), Vibration and shock - Vocabulary, page 2:

”1.5 jerk: A vector that specifies the time-derivative of acceleration.”

Note that the symbol j for jerk is not in the standard and is probably only one of many
symbols used.

Many other terms have appeared in individual cases for the third derivative, including
pulse, impulse, bounce, surge, shock and super acceleration. These are generally less ap-
propriate than jerk and jolt, either because they are used in engineering to mean other
things or because the common English use of the word does not fit the meaning so well.
For example impulse is more commonly used in physics to mean a increase of momentum
imparted by a force of limited duration [Belanger 1847] and surge is used by electricians
to mean something like rate of increase of current or voltage. The terms jerk and jolt are
therefore preferred for rate of increase of acceleration.
As its name suggests, jerk is important when evaluating the destructive effect of motion
on a mechanism or the discomfort caused to passengers in a vehicle. The movement of
delicate instruments needs to be kept within specified limits of jerk as well as acceleration
to avoid damage. When designing a train the engineers will typically be required to keep
the jerk less than 2 metres per second cubed for passenger comfort. In the aerospace indu-
stry they even have such a thing as a jerkmeter; an instrument for measuring jerk.
In the case of the Hubble space telescope, the engineers are said to have even gone as far
as specifying limits on the magnitude of the fourth derivative.

The term jounce has been used for the fourth derivative, i.e. the rate of increase of jerk, but
it has the drawback of using the same initial letter as jerk so it is not clear which symbol
to use. According this convention, According to this convention, the terms flounce and
pounce have been proposed for the fifth derivative and the sixth derivative. Another less
serious suggestion is snap (symbol s), crackle (symbol c) and pop (symbol ℘) for the 4th,
5th and 6th derivatives respectively. Higher derivatives do not yet have names because
they do not come up very often.

What is the term used for the third derivative of position?

Regarding the dynamic translational quantities, since the rate of increase of momentum
(symbol p) is force (symbol F) is it seems necessary to find terms for higher derivatives
of force too. So far yank (symbol Y) has been suggested for rate of increase of force, tug
(symbol T) for rate of increase of yank, snatch (symbol S) for rate of increase of tug and
shake (symbol S ) for rate of increase of snatch.
A similar reasoning can be done for the dynamic rotary quantities, in fact, when the refe-
rence point is motion less, the rate increase of angular momentum (symbol p), the moment
of momentum, is torque (symbol M), the moment of force, so for rate increase of torque
has been proposed rotatum (symbol P), gyratum (symbol G) for rate increase of rotatum,
versum (symbol V) for rate increase of gyratum and volutum (symbol V ) for rate increase
of versum.
Needless to say, none of these are in any kind of standards, yet. We just made them up on

Now class, repeat after me, if mass is constant...

Momentum equals mass times velocity and its moment is angular momentum!
Force equals mass times acceleration and its moment is torque!
Yank equals mass times jerk and its moment is rotatum!
Tug equals mass times snap and its moment is gyratum!
Snatch equals mass times crackle and its moment is versum!
Shake equals mass times pop and its moment is volutum!

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