I searched for the difference between cap and lid: this post and also this post.

But I'm still confused.

My theory is this:

  1. the cap is a cover for a bottle

  2. the lid is a cover for a container which is not bottle

  3. the lid doesn't have a screw in it. If it has a screw, it is called a cap.

But then, a jar's cover doesn't fit into this classification. A jar has a screw in the cover but the cover is called a lid.

How do I distinguish a lid from a cap?

  • 1
    Caps tend to used for small containers but that is about all I can say. I don't know of any official standard that denotes the use of one or the other. It's just something you pick up as you go through life. Jun 14, 2020 at 9:58
  • In my experience, bottled fruits/jams have lids that screw off. Canned soft drinks have rings that are pulled off to create a hole in the top. Bottled soft drinks have caps that are prised off. Paint cans have (non-screw) lids that are levered off. Pots have lids that are lifted off. If you come across grey areas, go with the local flow. Jun 14, 2020 at 10:03
  • 1
    What do you mean by 'a Coke can is a bottle'? Fizzy drinks come in either cans (with a ringpull) or bottles (with a cap). I would call the top of a narrow-necked container a cap, and that of a wide-necked container a lid (including jam jars, as Ronald says). Jun 14, 2020 at 14:58
  • @KateBunting Yeah, can is not a bottle. noted. thanks. Jun 15, 2020 at 1:15

3 Answers 3


Your theory is mostly correct.

  1. the cap is a cover for a bottle


  1. the lid is a cover for a container which is not bottle


  1. the lid doesn't have a screw in it. If it has screw, it is called a cap.

No. Jars often have screw tops. That feature isn't relevant.

Coke cans

Soda cans usually have pop-tops, which is arguably a type of lid. It is not a cap.

Standard cans like pinto beans or mandarin oranges have a lid. The lid requires a can opener, or sometimes has a ring to pull it off. Manufacturers in the USA should strongly consider adding those rings more frequently because they are quite convenient.


It is a temptation in English with its huge vocabulary to find false distinctions.

The "top" is a generic word that means "that which is most elevated relative to something considered in its socially conceived 'normal' orientation." To speak of the "lid" of the Empire State Building is to use language for humorous effect.

A "lid" is the top of a container, and usually a relatively relatively small container, although size is not a necessary criterion. For example, the hatches on an oil tanker are not usually referred to as "lids."

It is probably true that, in the context of modern packaging, lids usually have a screw-top or a pop-top, but that is (not yet at least) inherent in the word. A slang word for a hat or cap is a "lid", and few hats that I know of are screwed on to the heads of the wearers.

If you use "lid" to mean the part of a container meant to be opened in an orientation that does not result in the contents being precipitated toward the floor by gravity, you will seldom if ever go wrong.


I buy tens of thousands of Caps and Lids and Jars.

Cap and Lid are synonymous in most situations. If it is a glass bottle, where you need a bottle cap opener then it is always a cap.

In all other uses that I can think of, you can use them interchangeably. I had to set a standard for my company just to keep the nomenclature consistent on part names.

The usage of one word over another may be due to regional variations. There is a book called "Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide" by Josh Katz that is full of examples of these variations.

  • 1
    Can you name a few of those examples? Otherwise the reference is not really helpful, and looks more like promotion.
    – Joachim
    May 24, 2022 at 10:49

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