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Please advise if there is any functional difference between

ВМИКА́Ч, а, чол. Пристрій для вмикання електричного струму. Часто трапляються випадки ураження електричним струмом через відсутність контролю за справністю вмикачів, електропроводки та ін. (Методика викладання фрезерної справи, 1958, 225); Вони [пластмаси] повсюди в нашому житті — від електричного вмикача у кімнаті до космічних ракет (Вечірній Київ, 11.I 1963, 1).

and

ВИМИКА́Ч, а, чол., ел. Прилад для вмикання і вимикання електричного струму. — Марія Іванівна натиснула вимикача лампи — і зразу весь кабінет зник у півсутіні (Вадим Собко, Справа.., 1959, 84); Хтось клацнув вимикачем. Кімнату залило ясне електричне світло (Вадим Собко, Серце, 1952, 115).

Why вимикач is currently widespread while вмикач hardly ever occurs?

Isn't it possible to use перемикач instead of both вимикач and вмикач?

ПЕРЕМИКА́Ч, а, чол. Пристосування для перемикання (див. перемикання 1). Марта клацнула перемикачами, зв'язалася з черговим радарних установок (Вадим Собко, Срібний корабель, 1961, 255).

ПЕРЕМИКАННЯ 1, я, сер. Дія за значенням перемикати1. Перемикання швидкостей найкраще освоювати на мотоциклі, що стоїть на ніжках, під які підставлено дерев'яний брусок (Знання та праця, 3, 1967, 19); Будь-які перемикання, розбирання тощо в електросітці можна робити лише при вимкненій напрузі (Знання та праця, 8, 1967, 32).

  • (технічне) Це запитання оформлене англійською, але усі цитати українською, і вони складають 80% запитання. Іноземець це запитання так не поставив би. Пропоную або повернути усе запитання цілком до україномовного, або навести принаймні декілька цитат англійською, які обговорюють цю тему. – bytebuster May 26 '17 at 19:55
  • @bytebuster, it means a foreigner has made an investigation and quoted solely the Dictionary of the Ukrainian language, doesn't it? – Oksana Gubrenko May 26 '17 at 20:03
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Olexand Avramenko says that both вмикач and вимикач are synonyms and can be used interchangeably except for the rare case when a device has separate buttons for turning it on and off, in which case a button which turns the device on is called вмикач and the one that turns it off will be вимикач.

As for перемикач — actually this thing in most cases does not affect the turning the device (or machine) on and off, but rather changes the way it works. For instance, "перемикання швидкостей" does not turn on or off the engine of the vehicle, it just changes configuration of gears. This explanation from SUM shows that перемикання is a combination of stopping some parts of the mechanism and turning on some other parts:

ПЕРЕМИКАТИ 1, аю, аєш, недок., ПЕРЕМКНУТИ, ну, неш, док., перех. Виключати певні механізми, апарати, елементи і включати інші. Хтось підрахував: водій автобуса, що обслуговує пасажирів у місті, перемикає за зміну швидкість понад тисячу разів (Знання та праця, 11, 1966, 17);
// Змінювати напрям, силу (електричного струму, газу, потоку рідини).

So перемикач is not a synonym for вмикач and вимикач.

  • Indeed I've watched that lesson by O. Avramenko, but when I asked my father, he doubted, 'cause he said he'd never seen the device with two separate buttons to turn on and off. The explanation of my Dad was, in particular regarding the electricity, as follows. The electricity current naturally flows with no obstacles in the loop, and device is needed to stop it, i.e. to turn off. That's why вимикач is the right word, unlike вмикач which is slightly artificial and does not correspond to the peculiarities of the physical process. As for перемикач there is no objection to your explanation. – Oksana Gubrenko May 27 '17 at 20:48
  • The similar explanation I've seen on rus.stackexchange.com, but I'm not sure I'm convinced. And here is вмикач (kharkov.zakupka.com/p/329674058-vklyuchatel-pnv-pnvs-220-380v), very similar to what I've seen in my school on "labor" lessons where we had turning machines (токарні верстати) and possibly in some labs in KPI univercity. Black button is for turning electricity on, and red one - to turn it off. I saw such devices in many places (in school, univercity) that were created during Soviet times. – Artemix May 28 '17 at 5:15
  • Cool device in the picture is!) Dad says that кнопка вмикання/кнопка вимикання sounds good and supposes those two buttons are just changing the position of the same switch (like in morden devices). Nonetheless, the very device, at whole, should be вимикач, due to the original purpose of that - to break the elctricity current in the loop, i.e. to switch off. Perhaps in this very case the consultation of an electrician is needed. – Oksana Gubrenko May 28 '17 at 6:59
  • My thought is "вимикач" is slightly easier to spell due to vowel\consonant alternation. Same story in russian: "выключатель" is more common than "включатель". The other thought (more of speculation actually): in evreydays work process there was one reminder "don't forget to switch of power at the end of the day/shift" – Odmin Jun 6 '17 at 13:04
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The electricity current naturally flows with no obstacles in the loop, and device is needed to stop it, i.e. to turn off. That's why вимикач is the right word, unlike вмикач which is slightly artificial and does not correspond to the peculiarities of the physical process. Its really right!

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“Вмикач” and “вимикач”

“Вмикач” literally means “on-switcher” (one that turns on); “вимикач” literally means “off-switcher” (one that turns off).

In practice, however, per my perception, “вмикач” and “вимикач” are mostly synonymous. Oleksandr Avramenko holds the same position that both “вмикач” and “вимикач” are correct and mostly synonymous (“Урок 210. Вмикач чи вимикач?”). Distinction, per his opinion, appears only when a device provides distinct buttons for turning on and turning off — in this case the first button would be “вмикач” and the second one would be “вимикач” (I suppose that the whole panel containing both buttons — in case when the both buttons are isolated on a separate panel — can be referred to with both names: “вмикач” and “вимикач”, or “панель вмикання” and “панель вимикання”).

I don't know, why “вмикач” is more rare than “вимикач”. Possibly, just tradition. Maybe, influence of Russian language, where “включатель” (“on-switcher”) is purely a technical term and exclusively “выключатель” (“off-switcher”) is used in colloquial speech. Update: I see the other answer, which provides reasonable (per my opinion) explanation why “вимикач” is often preferred over “вмикач”:

“Перемикач”

“Перемикач” means “one that switches between several mutually exclusive choices/modes/positions/variants”. Strictly speaking, while electrical “в(и)микач” always has two modes (one that activates target electric circuit and other that deactivates it) — electrical “перемикач” may have two or more modes, each of which activates its own target circuit (while deactivating others).

An electrical “перемикач” in which only one target circuit is useful (and others are just open), effectively works as “в(и)микач” for that circuit. Therefore one may think that “перемикач” describes a wider class of devices (that every “в(и)микач” is a “перемикач”) — but from practical point of view that's not true, native speakers almost never say “перемикач” for devices that just turn on and off.

So “в(и)микач” and “перемикач” are hardly interchangeable. I can imagine them as interchangeable only in cases when original designation of a device contradicts to its practical usage, e.g. when a device whose original designation is to mutually-exclusively switch between several circuits, is in fact used only to turn a single circuit on and off. (Also I suppose that a switch with modes “circuit 1”, “circuit 2” and “off” may be sometimes called “вимикач” to refer its ability to turn everything off (or “вмикач” to refer its ability to turn something on), but most common name for it will be still “перемикач”.)

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