English has a great range of terms in different areas. I was thinking whether there are names (words,terminology) to speak about different kings of cargo.

For instance, farm animals like cows, sheep, chicken, horses and etc. we can categorise as livestock.

  • What about equipment and tools?
  • What about food, drinks and other beverages and fruit, vegetables?
  • What about weaponry, suits, night-vision goggles, helmets, grenades and ammunition?
  • What about medicine, vials, bandages and different healing tools?
  • What about plants, flowers, different trees?
  • What about oxygen, hydrogen, different chemicals and substances?
  • What about living organisms and specimens and test subjects?

Is there a word for each category or maybe some grouping words used in transportation?

closed as too broad by choster, Nathan Tuggy, JavaLatte, Laure, Lamplighter May 9 '17 at 19:09

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • You come up with some great questions. :) – Davo May 9 '17 at 14:04
  • 3
    I don't see the relevance of "cargo" to this question. Cows, sheep, chicken, horses, etc., are still livestock whether they're being transported or kept on a farm/food production plant. And offhand I can't think of any words to specifically identify particular types of cargo that don't also apply to the same "collection" when not being transported. – FumbleFingers May 9 '17 at 15:00
  • @FumbleFingers Maybe you are right but maybe there still is a difference. – SovereignSun May 9 '17 at 15:04
  • If we farm cows/sheep/chicken/horses/etc., we call them "livestock". To me, that's a farming-related term, not a transportation term. Judging by 1006a's answer, it looks like there are indeed terms for subcategories of cargo. But, I wouldn't consider "livestock" to be an example ;). – Ethan Kaminski May 9 '17 at 16:41
  • 1
    Oh yeah, I'd definitely agree that when transporting farm animals, they're still livestock. The way I've seen the word used, that doesn't change until they're killed - which makes some sense, given the "live-" part of the word. I'm just saying it's more related to the farming, is all. – Ethan Kaminski May 9 '17 at 17:29

The transportation industry, and the agencies that regulate it, have quite a lot of specialized terms for various kinds of things that can be transported. These vary by how you want to transport the things, and generally break down fairly broadly based on what kind of handling the things need.

For example, the Port of Antwerp divides actual ship cargo (the kinds of things that go on cargo ships for transport by sea) into five categories: Container Cargo (anything that can fit in a box or container, like TVs and clothing and even meat), Liquid Bulk (transported in tankers, like milk or oil), Dry Bulk (transported loose in large quantities in the hold, like coal), Breakbulk (too big for a container, but delicate-by-shipping-standards, like wind turbine parts or reams of paper; often on pallets), and Ro-ro (short for "roll-on, roll off"; for large, finished vehicles like cars or farm combines, which are literally driven on-and-off the ship).

The US National Motor Freight Traffic Association divides freight that is going to be commercially transported into 18 classes, based on what they call "transportability", which includes "density, handling, stowability and liability." These don't (as far as I can tell) include refrigerated or live freight, or any of the "bulk" items above. They also don't seem to break down by what I might consider logical or type categories; for example, the examples given by one shipper for the most expensive class are "Bags of gold dust, ping-pong balls", and the "names" of the classes are all just numbers. You can see examples of each class here.

Wikipedia's Cargo article includes various other ways of categorizing cargo and freight, starting with how they are being transported (by sea, air, rail, or road).

From a lay perspective, the categories I've had occasion to consider include things like livestock (because I live in farm country; I haven't shipped them myself), perishables, refrigerated goods, fragile items, hazardous materials (because I have to declare that I'm not shipping them), and liquids.


These are the descriptions I would use. As a general rule, you will want to try and use a description that is:

  • Generalized enough that it encompasses everything you've listed
  • Specific enough that it is clear what you mean. "Things" would be correct in most cases, but it doesn't particularly reveal what kind of things we are talking about.

  • What about equipment and tools?

Equipment seems the most generic description available. Tools are a form of equipment.

  • What about food, drinks and other beverages and fruit, vegetables?

Food can include both food and drinks, when used in the most general sense of the word.

  • What about weaponry, suits, night-vision goggles, helmets, grenades and ammunition?

Materiel. This is an established term (most often used in military context, but according to Merriam Webster it is also correct in a corporate environment).

  • What about medicine?

Medicine. If your question only lists a single type of item, then that is the correct name to use :)

  • What about plants, flowers, different trees and other?

We tend to use flora, which comes from fauna and flora. Quite literally, it translates to "animals (fauna) and plants (flora)".

Plants would of course also be correct, but flora implies a more general biological definition.

  • What about oxygen, hydrogen, different chemicals and substances?

Chemicals would be correct. However, people (wrongly) infer "chemicals" as "dangerous liquid compounds".

Substances would also be correct, but it is a bit vague. It also carries a connotation of being related to drugs. E.g. "substance abuse" inherently refers to alcohol and drugs.

I would use chemicals. In my opinion, we should not avoid using the word because some people wrongly infer a different meaning.

  • What about living organisms and specimens and test subjects?

If you use flora for plants, I would use fauna for animals. However, if all of the cargo can be considered test subjects, I would refer to them as such. "Specimens" is too vague, because saliva swabs are also specimens but by no means an animal.

"Living organisms" can also include bacteria and microscopic life forms. "Fauna" can't (it is limited to animals).

If you mean animals, use fauna (or animals). If you specifically mean lab animals, call them test subjects (or lab animals).

  • To hitch onto this, armaments or arsenal can also be used for weaponry. I like materiel best though. Produce is a good term for agricultural and natural food. – Cantalouping May 9 '17 at 14:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.