Dimmers are devices used to vary the brightness of a light. By decreasing or increasing the RMS voltage and, hence, the mean power to the lamp, it is possible to vary the intensity of the light output. Although variable-voltage devices are used for various purposes, the term dimmer is generally reserved for those intended to control light output from resistive incandescent, halogen, and (more recently) compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). More specialized equipment is needed to dim fluorescent, mercury vapor, solid state and other arc lighting.
In the professional lighting industry, changes in intensity are called “fades” and can be “fade up” or “fade down”. Dimmers with direct manual control had a limit on the speed they could be varied at but this issue has been largely eliminated with modern digital units (although very fast changes in brightness may still be avoided for other reasons like lamp life).