The 5 Most Commonly Misused Phone System Terms


The first step in any kind of communication is the definition of terms. Not only is it invaluable to effective communication, but in the same way, understanding industry terms such as phone system jargon and even just the names of the hardware, functions, and other elements is essential to choosing the right virtual phone system, as well as setting it up and using it. All of the terms you’ll find in this post will clarify what it all means, once and for all.


1. Port

You probably have an idea in your mind of what this word means, and what you think is very likely completely wrong. This word marks one of the most pervasive misunderstandings among telecom users. Once more from the cheap seats…

Port: A full and complete transfer of phone service for a phone number from one carrier, to a different carrier. After the porting process completes, the phone number no longer has anything to do with the previous carrier or the phone that was connected to the number.

To illustrate this definition—you know when you have a phone number that is attached to your personal cell phone, and then you switch from Verizon to T-Mobile (example), but keep the same phone number after you switch carriers? You just ported that phone number. It’s simply transferring a number from one carrier to another.


2. Extension

This is a tough one because “extension” actually is widely used to describe a couple of different things, even though it primarily means one thing.

Traditionally, an extension is a 3 or 4-digit number that the caller dials to be connected to a specific person or department; however, an extension can also be a single-digit number that functions in the same way, as part of a call menu, or auto attendant.


3. Transfer

Many people say “transfer” to describe what is actually call forwarding. Call forwarding is the action that happens when a caller dials a phone number, and the call is routed automatically to other phones.

A transfer, on the other hand, is what happens when you are already on a live call, and you send that call, while it is still live, to another destination such as another phone or to a voice mailbox.


4. Voicemail

It seems cut and dry, but this word has surprisingly become steadily more interchangeable with any other word you can think of for any kind of audio message on a phone system. For example, people most frequently confuse voicemail with the welcome greeting or intro message that callers hear as soon as they call in.

To avoid this confusion, just remember that your voicemail greeting is the message heard by the caller as soon as they reach the voice mailbox. Right after the voicemail greeting plays, inviting them to leave a message, is when they hear the signature “beep” tone that signals they can now leave a voice message.



5. Prefix

It’s completely understandable that people misuse this term because it’s honestly not really publicized or even used very often. The prefix is the 3 digits of a phone number that immediately follow the area code.

Basically, if a phone number is a code to locate you, then the prefix narrows it down to a specific region, town, or general area.



There are surely quite a few more phone system terms that people misuse all the time, but these 5 definitely make the top of the list. Honestly, using the terms incorrectly isn’t the end of the world because we figure it out eventually. The point is that everything becomes so much clearer when we know what we’re talking about.




Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

StephanieThe 5 Most Commonly Misused Phone System Terms