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Labelling Glossary

Labelling Glossary, Definitions and Terminology

Print Technology 

Direct Thermal – printing without using a ribbon onto chemically treated label material, which turns black when subjected to heat from a printhead, or longer term from other sources such as sunlight, high intensity lighting and friction. Commonly used for labelling short shelf life product as direct thermal labels have a more limited service life

Thermal Transfer – printing using a ribbon on to a wide range of label material surfaces for a medium to long service life

Printhead – a thermal/thermal transfer printhead is made up of lots of tiny heating elements, protected by a ceramic coating, which heat up and cool down very quickly. The heating sequence determines the image which is subsequently melted from the ribbon and transferred to the label

DPI – dots per inch – the number of printhead heating elements in a linear inch

Stand-Alone - printing without a computer attached to the printer. Requires a printer such as the H Series which can store label designs and allow information to be added at time of print without using a computer

Automatic Label Application 

Print and Apply – printing and applying a label in one operation

Apply Only – applying a pre-printed label

Real Time Labeller – applies the last label printed to the product (no queue of printed labels awaiting application) and thus maintains sequencing for better control of data or product changes

Tamp Apply – positively transporting the label until it makes contact with the product. Usually achieved using a pneumatic ram

Blow Apply – using air to transfer the label to the product (may be preceded by a mechanical transport towards the product)

Two-Sided or Top and Side Labelling – applying two labels in one pass to two faces of a product or applying one label wrapped round two faces

Site Survey – an inspection of the intended label applicator location and associated site facilities. Usually required when the label applicator is required to be incorporated into an existing production line. Application parameters, location restrictions, product presentation and control are all assessed. Ask Weyfringe to carry out a no-cost labelling system site survey for you and receive a free written proposal


Application Identifier (AI) - Is a prefix code used to attribute meaning to the data encoded within a barcode. However the prefix code does not just denote the meaning, it also indicates the format of the data field that follows it.

Barcode - a series of light and dark bars arranged to represent alphanumeric data which, by providing varying levels of reflectance, can be decoded by a light emitting and receiving device - a barcode reader

Verification (also see Validation below) – the measuring and examination of barcodes using a device to ISO/IEC 15426-1 standards. A barcode verifier is a quality control device helping you to ensure compliance and due-diligence. Barcode verification is often required of suppliers to the major retailers

Validator/Validation or Checker – terms used when equipment DOES NOT Verify but does provide some barcode analysis albeit not to a current ISO standard. A Validator IS NOT a Barcode Verifier and is very unlikely to meet the requirements of the major retailers.

GS1 UK - Part of the global GS1 organisation dedicated to the development and implementation of global barcode standards.

GS1-128 - (Formerly called EAN-128). A barcode often specified by the major retailers for identifying the outer packaging of products. GS1-128 bar codes carry GS1 identifiers for products, locations, assets and pallets/logistics units and any additional information required. Easylabel contains a wizard for simplified creation of GS1-128 barcodes

Two Dimensional (2D) Barcoding – a more recent type of barcode which contains information in two planes using both horizontal and vertical bars. More data can be stored and a degree of error correction is often possible in case of missing or damaged code. Code types include DataMatrix, GS1 Databar, and PDF417. Not all labelling software or barcode readers can handle 2D barcodes. Ask for more detail. 

Label Design and Printing 

WYSIWYG - abbreviation for What You See Is What You Get. Describes the commonality of a PC displayed label design and the printed final product. Easylabel is WYSIWYG labelling software 

MRP – Manufacturing Resource Planning – software used to control general manufacturing protocols and which can often be linked with labelling software such as Easylabel to automatically produce labels in conjunction with planned production

Consecutive Numbering – incrementing or decrementing numbers in selectable steps to produce serial numbers etc.

Box Numbering – a facility in Easylabel allowing labels to simply include box count information e.g. Box 1 of 5

FDA21 CRF Part 11 – Food and Drug Administration regulations concerning identification. Easy Label includes a ‘toolkit' helping users to achieve compliance 

Use By Date – the number of days to final consumption date.  Easylabel can calculate use by dates automatically allowing dates to be reliably applied to labels


Peel Mode – describes when labels are printed and then automatically almost totally peeled from the backing, and then held awaiting final removal. Used when labels require printing and almost immediate application. Once removed the next label in the queue is automatically printed. Can be achieved by fitting an optional peel device to the label printer 

Dispenser – a non-printing desktop device which individually peels labels one by one from a roll for easier hand application

Cutter – an optional device which mounts in line with the printers label exit path to cut continuous labels in to singles or other pre-defined batch sizes


Paper – standard finish label (often coated for better print quality). Can be supplied to work with a thermal transfer ribbon or chemically treated to work in direct thermal mode

Synthetic – man-made material label with usually superior durability. Available in several types to suit multiple applications including re-cycling with non-paper packaging, HAZ CHEM and serial number plates

Fabric – printable woven synthetic suitable for stitching onto cloth and capable of withstanding wash cycles

Metallised – synthetic label incorporating a metallic coating for added durability. Especially suitable for long life identification labels

Tamper Evident (sometimes called self-destruct) - a label that by virtue of its composition either breaks into lots of smaller pieces or leaves behind a tamper message on removal. 

Permanent Adhesive – designed to adhere without the option to remove without causing damage to the label or surface

Peelable Adhesive – designed to adhere allowing for removal without destruction

Freezer Adhesive – designed to adhere in temperatures below –30ºC 

Soluble Adhesive – designed to wash off without trace in cleaning cycle routines

Artwork – design created for pre-printed labels

Plates – panels (usually flexible) to transfer artwork design to label

Cutter – device to cut the label size and shape from the face paper during manufacture. Usually will not contact with the backing paper unless a slit is required

Face Paper – the top printable layer of an adhesive label

Backing - the disposable carrier for the adhesive label

Tooling – the collective term for plate and cutters

Flash Label – a usually pre–printed label to highlight an offer or promotion on a retail pack

Leading Edge – the edge of the label which first exits the printer when printing. EG a 100mm x 150mm label would be described as narrow leading. A label 150mm x 100mm would be described as wide leading edge


Wax – low cost ribbon with medium resistance to print smudging and removal. Use with paper labels and tags

Wax with Resin Enhancement – the most popular ribbon type providing economy and increased resistance to smudging and removal and suitable for use with paper and tags

Wax Resin – increased resin content to provide superior resistance to print smudging and removal. Suitable for use with paper and synthetic labels

Resin – highest durability ribbons often specified for chemical or serial number plate labelling. Very high levels of resistance to removal and chemicals. Only suitable for use with synthetic labels

Back Coating - a surface to the printhead side of the ribbon designed to smoothly glide over the printhead reducing friction and static resulting in much extended printhead life compared with direct thermal use.

Radio Frequency Identification - RFID.

RFID label - label allowing wireless information data exchange by miniature chip and aerial built in between the label face paper and adhesive layers. Can also be overprinted with barcodes for dual decoding options.

This glossary and definitions list is written with regard to adhesive barcode and labelling systems. You may find that some of the explanations may change with relevance to alternative subjects.