A phosphor, most generally, is a substance that exhibits the phenomenon of luminescence. Somewhat confusingly, this includes both phosphorescent materials, which show a slow decay in brightness (> 1 ms), and fluorescent materials, where the emission decay takes place over tens of nanoseconds. Phosphorescent materials are known for their use in radar screens and glow-in-the-dark toys, whereas fluorescent materials are common in cathode ray tube (CRT) and plasma video display screens, sensors, and white LEDs.
The most common uses of phosphors are in CRT displays and fluorescent lights. CRT phosphors were standardized beginning around World War II and designated by the letter "P" followed by a number.