I always need this when I buy stuff from the market. So, I need to know the real name for it. I always call it "bag" but it seems that it is not the correct name.

enter image description here

  • I'd call it a grocery bag. I'm from the US. I'd understand if someone called it a "bag," but I wouldn't call it that myself.
    – user239874
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 22:40
  • 4
    Why don't you think it's right? Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 14:47
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit because i used "bag" without knowing that it is the correct word, so i assumed it is the wrong word Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 6:51
  • "I assume it's wrong" it's really valid prior research. Oh well! Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 10:15
  • Think about polybag Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 7:03

7 Answers 7


In my experience, which is all I can answer from, in American English, 99% of the time the white plastic object is called a bag.

Specifically, it is a plastic bag.

We also have paper bags. And canvas bags.

When you start talking about "bags" made out of thicker material, traditionally woven from cotton or something, you can then use the word sack.

You can use sack to refer to a paper bag, but it is rare to refer to a plastic bag as a plastic sack, in the USA, using American English, at least in the dialect I speak.

So, in short, yes, bag is the most common term to call the white plastic object.

  • 4
    In the US I've heard sack applied to paper bags as in "sack lunch" the brown paper bag your lunch would come in as a child. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 14:12
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    "Shopping bag" would also do for any bag (paper, plastic, or canvas) that you bring home shopping in.
    – hobbs
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 16:20
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    @hobbs In my experience, a 'shopping bag' is a larger bag, plastic or paper, that I get from a department store such as Sears or Dillard's. Is that your usage? I would not use 'shopping bag' in the context of a market, food store, or grocery store. That is just a bag, although when full of groceries, it becomes a grocery bag.
    – user6951
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 18:19
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    Yes @MichaelMcGriff 'sack lunch' was the term we used for a lunch packed in a small brown-paper bag (a lunch bag). But then 'sack lunch' began to refer to any lunch brought from home, even if in a lunch box. Although there are boxed lunches too. Now we have 'bag lunches' due to the ubiquity of plastic bags. But I think 'sack lunch' as a general term can still refer to any lunch from home, including a 'bag lunch'. But there are also brown bag lunches.
    – user6951
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 18:28
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    I understand "shopping bag" to mean a large paper bag with handles. "Lunch bag" is a much smaller bag. "Grocery bag" is in the middle. As with many phrases, the literal meaning of the words making it up is not the same as the meaning of the phrase as a whole. I would not hesitate for a moment if someone said, "I put my laundry in a grocery bag." "Grocery bag" means certain size and dimensions, not the contents. It just happens to most frequently be used at grocery stores.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 19:39

I have a funny experience with this. I grew up in the Eastern U.S. What you ask about were called bags, pure and simple.

Then I moved about 1500 miles (2400 km) away, to the American midwest, near the geographic center of U.S. I still remember my puzzled look when the cashier asked me, "Would you like a sack with that?"

Where I had grown up, a sack was made of burlap or mesh; i.e., this was a sack:

enter image description here
Fig. 1: A sack in the Northeast

But in my new location, your groceries were put in a sack, unless you wanted to carry them back to your car in your arms.

enter image description here
Fig. 2: A sack in the Midwest

By the time I moved back to the east coast more than a decade later, my ear had become accustomed to sack, and bag seemed eerily unfamiliar. I was just about certain that bag was the right word to use again, but it didn't sound right to me. So, maybe a month or so after I had moved back, I had this rather amusing conversation with a convenience store clerk while purchasing a gallon of milk:

J.R.: If I wanted one of those brown paper things to put my milk in, what would I ask for?
Cashier: A bag?
J.R.: Thank you.
Cashier: [looking confused]: Do you want one?
J.R.: No – I just wanted to know what it was called.

and then I walked out.

I think the bottom line is that regional variations may apply. I'd say bag is usually right, but you can always ask a cashier if you're not sure :^)

By the way, one question often asked in groceries stores is, "Paper or plastic?" I'd never really thought about it before, but that terse three-word question avoids the noun – which might be by design.

Lastly, remember this: If you are ever asked "Paper or plastic?" You'll have to decide for yourself. Why? Because baggers can't be choosers. ;^)

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    +1 Good thing midnight's still 12 hours away, cause I'd hate to kick off the new year with that :). Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 18:07
  • I'm from Iowa, and I recall the 'baggers' actually being called 'sackers' on occasion, with their activity being referred to as 'sacking'. That being said, 'bag', 'bagger', and 'bagging' are all probably more common.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 23:19
  • 1
    The use of sack in northeast America appears to be in line with what we in Britain would call a sack. I'm now imagining how the phrase "Santa keeps his presents in a sack" must sound to those Midwesterners.
    – Pharap
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 3:08
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    I grew up in Omaha NE, and we "bagged" things into paper and plastic "bags" at the grocery store. Don't get caught up in idiosyncrasies. Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 20:56
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    Where in the midwest did you hear that? I'm from WI and I've never heard a disposable plastic bag called a sack like that.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 3:40

This appears to be UK-English only

It's a bag; specifically it's a carrier-bag.

You could ask for either - or even, colloquially, just 'a carrier'.

Some places would ask whether you want paper or plastic, though that's not a popular choice in the UK.
Here they prefer you to have a thicker, heavier plastic or cloth bag which can be used over & over, often referred to as a 'bag for life'

Examples -

enter image description here enter image description here

In Br Eng, this would never be a sack - that would imply it being much larger, perhaps like this, a 'bin-bag' or sack.

enter image description here

  • 6
    I've never heard "carrier". I'm from the U.S., perhaps that's non-U.S. English.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 14:13
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    It's the predominant UK term; so ubiquitous it doesn't need the 'bag' part actually appending, 'carrier' alone will do to convey the meaning [when right at the point of purchase, of course] Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 14:56
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    @Tetsujin Regarding the picture that the OP posted: One often sees those thin plastic ("carrier") bags caught in the branches of trees, or tangled in the hedgerow. I read once that in England they are called "witches britches" once they are out polluting the landscape. Is that actually a common term on your side of the pond? If so, well done - it has a great ring to it. (Sample usage: hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/… )
    – Adam
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 17:22
  • 2
    Personally I would never call a bin bag a sack, it just seems wrong somehow. @Adam Never heard them called that, but it's possible some people do, it might be a colloquialism from up North or around London or something.
    – Pharap
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 3:11
  • @Tetsujin I'm from the UK and I've heard them called both "plastic bags" and "carrier bags" but never just "carrier" by itself. Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 1:35

In India, we refer that as a 'polythene bag'. Some years back, it was just a 'bag' but then due to the awareness about preserving our planet, the governments started acting strictly. All the newspapers and TV channels were flooded with the message that we should not use 'polythene bag' (there is when general public came to know the 'full form' of that bag!) However, polythene bags above 40 microns are allowed.

There are so many types of polythene but broadly, we refer these bags as polythene bags. The vendors here started using 'paper bags' and there is where, we, as buyers, have to specify the 'bag'. Suppose if I'm carrying something wet, I'll have to ask for a polythene bag over a thin paper bag that the vendor is using for everything else.

I would not prefer to put an adjective to this (such as shopping bag, grocery bag) which would simply restrict its usage! Use a polythene bag to carry a wet shoe, a fruit, a bunch of newspapers or anything that you don't 'shop' as well!

[I'm tagging this answer as InE].

  • 3
    Interesting. Several people here in the U.S. might call that a plastic bag, but I'd doubt you'd hear anyone say polythene.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 10:27
  • 4
    Yeah, it's strange! @J.R. And you know what, a small vendor in a small village (where people don't know even the alphabet of English) use 'polythene bag'. However, their pronunciation is horrible. They don't know the word but still speak that way! In India, there are many English words used by those who don't know even a bit of the language. In fact, they even don't know that the word they speak is English. They consider such word as the latest word in their mother-tongues! :) lol
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 10:57
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    Huh. The word polythene is not (afaik) used in the US. We say polyethylene or more rarely polyethene. Polyethene or poly(methylene) is IUPAC name for the stuff. Until five minutes ago, I thought "polythene" was a nonce word John Lennon made up for the song. Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 20:16
  • The term "poly bag" is used occasionally in the UK but I doubt that anyone would say "polythene bag" here unless they needed to be unusually specific about the material, e.g., for recycling. Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 13:46
  • @DavidRicherby Maybe, but here in India, it's polythene and I specified the reason as well. Some years back, nobody knew the full form but local govt bodies published posters for the awareness of the 'material' above 40 microns. Those posters were in regional languages. That's the reason, evrybody started calling it by that name.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 5:07

In India wee call it a 'plastic-cover'. Well educated people also call it a 'carry-bag'.These are available in almost all types of stores in my country. In-fact because of its heavy usage and pollution problem a law was created in my state that demands these bags be made of plastic of 30 microns or above. And because in our country every state has its own language this is mostly known by it local name, in my state Kerala it is known in Malayalam as 'sanjhi'


I am a product specialist in the flexible packaging industry.

The bag you have in this picture is commonly called a "t-shirt bag". It is called this because the construction moderately resembles a t-shirt. This type of bag falls under the larger category of "carry-out bag" which is any bag that a cashier will put your item in at the time of purchase and you will then carry-out of the store. The application is important when it comes to figuring out if the item is subject to import tariffs..

They are made out of LDPE or HDPE. The bag in this picture also has registered spot printing done with a flexographic press.


In the United States, it varies by region.

enter image description here

  • In the picture you have added there is just one region :) Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 9:17

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