Negative Charge: Definition & Overview

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Neutrons: Definition & Concept

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Definition
  • 0:35 Origins of Negative Charge
  • 1:15 Electric Fields
  • 2:25 Triboelectricity
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Richard Cardenas

Richard Cardenas has taught Physics for 15 years. He has a Ph.D. in Physics with a focus on Biological Physics.

There are two types of charge, positive and negative. In this lesson, you will learn about how negative charges were assigned to electrons. You will also learn about the properties of negative charges and how they affect other objects near them.


Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Neutrons are neutral and do not have any charge at all. Protons carry a positive charge, and electrons carry the negative charge. How would you know if an atom was electrically neutral? Well, you count the electrons and protons, and see if they were the same. That would mean that the positive and negative charges cancel each other out.

When an object has a positive charge, it has more protons than electrons. Therefore, when an object has a negative charge, then that object contains more electrons than protons.

Origins of Negative Charge

Why are electrons negative and protons positive? The assignment of negative and positive charges to a particle is completely arbitrary. They could have easily been switched, and we would be calling electrons positive instead. So, how did it happen?

Many people attribute the naming of negative charge and positive charge to Benjamin Franklin. According to Benjamin Franklin, electricity was like some sort of fluid. When this fluid left one object and entered another object, the object that lost the fluid became positively charged, and the object that gained fluid became negatively charged. Once we determined that the electrons were the particles that moved in an electric current, they were assigned a negative charge based on Franklin's description of electricity.

Both positive and negative charges create electric fields which surround particles and exert force. All charged particles have an electric field. The convention is that electric field lines come out of positive charges and go into negative charges. You can think of electric fields as like traffic lights attached to each particle. Whenever a charged particle comes in contact with the electric field of another particle, it knows what it should do.

Electric Field Lines into Negative and out of Positive Charges
Electric Fields

Electric Field of a Negative Charge

Electric Fields

One property of charge is that two positive charges and two negative charges near each other will want to repel, while opposite charges near each other will want to attract. All of that information is transmitted by the electric field to other surrounding charged particles.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account