What is a Pendant Lamp?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus
Pendant lamps keep kitchen islands well-lit for food preparation.
Pendant lamps keep kitchen islands well-lit for food preparation.

A pendant is something that hangs from something else. In jewelry, a pendant hangs from a chain or other material. A pendant lamp is any lamp that hangs from the ceiling by anything such as a cord, pole or chain. Rather than being directly attached to the electrical fixture, a pendant lamp is suspended from the fixture.

The modern pendant lamp is inspired from the clay pendant lamps that were hung off the ground in ancient times so that hands were free and light could be spread out to cover a large area. These clay-based lamps had animal fat deposits to hold a flame and were common around 2700 BC. The modern pendant lamp design began to be glass-based so that the light would shine through from the underside of the suspended lamp.

The stained glass Tiffany lamp is a well-known type of pendant lamp. The colorful Tiffany pendant lamps usually hang from an antique-finished metal chain. Chandeliers are another well-known type of pendant lamp.

Architect George Nelson designed organically-shaped plastic pendant lamps in 1952 that were hung from a plastic-coated cord. These lamps are pear-shaped, ball-shaped and cigar-shaped and their clear, plain lines are accented by details such as subtle stripes or textured, vertical ridges. Nelson's pendant lamps use pulled plastic so that light is exposed without causing a glare.

Not all pendant lamps have a single cord. Some have three or more "branches," stemming from the electrical fixture, that attach to one or more lamp shades. Some pendant lamps may be hung in a row to give an interesting effect that also adds more light to a space. Track pendant lamps are joined like the lights in regular track lighting. However, the difference is that the shades are suspended rather than being attached right into the track that fits on the electrical fixture.

Pendant lamps tend to add a much more dramatic and stylish effect to a room than light fixtures that aren’t suspended. The styles range from sophisticated, like chandeliers, to old fashioned, like Tiffany lamps, to modern, such as a row of small pendant lamps all of the same shape, but each a different color. There are now styles and colors of pendant lamps available for every room, taste and budget.

Discussion Comments


We have a hanging pendant lamp over our pool table in the basement. When we moved to this house, the basement was finished and already had the lighting set up for something like this.

This looks very nice hanging over the table and adds a lot of extra light for those who are playing pool. A basement doesn't usually have the brightest lighting, so this works out really well.

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    • Pendant lamps keep kitchen islands well-lit for food preparation.
      By: pics721
      Pendant lamps keep kitchen islands well-lit for food preparation.