A flashlight (often called a torch outside North America) is a portable hand-held electric light. Usually, the source of the light is an incandescent light bulb or light-emitting diode (LED). A typical flashlight consists of a light bulb mounted in a reflector, a transparent cover (sometimes combined with a lens) to protect the light source and reflector, a battery, and a switch. These are supported and protected by a case.
The invention of the dry cell and miniature incandescent electric light bulbs made the first battery-powered flashlights possible around 1899. Today flashlights use mostly incandescent lamps or light-emitting diodes and run on disposable or rechargeable batteries. Some are powered by the user turning a crank or shaking the lamp, and some have solar panels to recharge a battery.
In addition to the general-purpose hand-held flashlight, many forms have been adapted for special uses. Head or helmet-mounted flashlights designed for miners and campers leave the hands free. Some flashlights can be used underwater or in flammable atmospheres.