Glossary of Common Locksmith Terms

Every industry has its jargon, and understanding it makes communication easier and helps prevent misunderstandings. Here are a few terms commonly used in the locksmith business.

Biometric Lock

A sophisticated form of electronic lock that uses person-specific attributes such as fingerprints or the eye’s iris to allow access.


This refers to a business that has posted a “surety bond” to insure that claims for untimely, incorrect, or unfinished work are paid. Businesses that are bonded also do background checks on their employees.


A break-in can be a criminal act, but it can also refer to having a registered locksmith gain access to a door or other locked device legally, using techniques and tools of the trade. Professional locksmiths prefer the term “opening.”

Cash Rating

A safe’s burglar resistance. It looks at the strength of the safe, the complexity of the locking mechanism, and how hard it is to remove. Cash rating and fire rating are not related, so both should be taken into consideration.

Combination Lock

A type of lock that uses mechanical tumblers that fall into place when a dial is stopped sequentially at certain places, usually numbers on the dial.


The act of physically destroying the inner workings of a lock to gain access. Professional locksmiths rarely resort to this technique since they have a variety of non-destructive ways to open locks.

Electronic Lock

A lock operated electrically rather than by a physical key. These locks can use keypads, magnetic cards or remote controls or even sophisticated biometrics to allow access.

Fire Rating

The amount of time a safe can withstand a direct flame of 1200° F before reaching an internal temperature of 350°. That’s the temperature at which paper begins to discolor and scorch before bursting into flames at 451°. But you may have other things that melt or burn at much lower temperatures, so be sure to take that into consideration.


An insured business provides liability protection in case their employee is injured in your home. Their policy might also cover damage to your and their property or theft by employees.

Keyed Lock

Any lock that requires a physical key to operate. Keys can be common tumbler types, pitted, or magnetic types that are either swiped like a credit card or have a proximity lock that opens when the key card is waved over the lock reader.

Keyless Lock

A lock that operates without a key. Keyless locks can use mechanical or electrical buttons, remote controls, or biometric readers.


Some states and municipalities require locksmiths to meet certain licensing requirements in order to do business. In places that don’t require licensing, such as Colorado, it’s important to only deal with reputable businesses that are bonded, insured, and highly-rated by independent organizations like the Better Business Bureau.


When a person is denied legitimate access to property due to a lost or forgotten key or combination or a faulty lock mechanism.

Master Key

A key that allows access to multiple individually-keyed locks. Typically used by apartment and hotel management, security personnel, and business owners and managers.


Some businesses have a minimum amount they charge for a job, no matter how small. Be sure you understand all charges and policies before hiring a contractor of any kind.


Resetting a lock so that access is denied to previous keys. Can be done for either mechanical or electronic locks.

Safe Cracking

Opening a locked safe without a key or combination. Professional locksmiths can do it legally, usually with little or no damage. Burglars aren’t as careful.

Trip Charge

A cost to you for coming to your location, regardless of what work, if any, is done. Sometimes the trip charge is applied to the cost of the job, but it can also be an additional cost, so be sure you understand a contractor’s policies before hiring them.

Related Posts