Longman Dictionary says:

packet [countable]:
1 (British English) a container made of paper, plastic, or cardboard that something is sold in
2 (especially British English) a small flat package that is sent by post or delivered to someone

So the picture bellow would be called a packet of spaghetti in British English, but not in American English:

Packet of Spaghetti

What is it called in America then? A bag of spaghetti? A what of spaghetti?

  • 3
    It is called a bag or a packet. Why do you think packet is not what it's called in American English? Nov 25 '15 at 20:54
  • 5
    It is also called a package of spaghetti. These terms are used rather loosely. It isn't a box of spaghetti or a container of spaghetti. Nov 25 '15 at 20:59
  • 7
    I agree with Longman. I don't know any Americans that would call that a packet of spaghetti. I'd call a package or a bag, or even "a thing": The water's boiling, hand me that thing of spaghetti." A "packet" is a smaller envelope-type container, ketchup comes in packets at McDonalds. Some pre-made salads come with a packet of salad dressing. and boxed macaroni -and-cheese comes with a "flavor packet" that has some orange powder in it...
    – Jim
    Nov 25 '15 at 22:00
  • 1
    Here (the UK) the things in which McDs supply ketchup are either sachets or pots, depending if they are flatish and flexible (sachet) or deeper and rigid (pot) Nov 25 '15 at 23:06
  • 2
    How about "pack", as in " a pack of smokes", for example?
    – JMB
    Nov 25 '15 at 23:20

Let me elaborate on the comments a bit.

If you were to show me this picture and quickly ask me what that is called, certainly the first thing I would say would be, "package of spaghetti."

There are other options, as you'll see from the numerous words used in the comments, but they do have slightly different connotations.

Packet is the next closest possible option (for the image you showed). In my opinion, however, when I think of a packet of food, I think of a small package of something small or granular. For example, a packet of sugar:
Sugar packet

You could also have a box of spaghetti, but not with the image that you gave. This would be a box of spaghetti:
Box of spaghetti

Container can really be applied to almost anything, but it's a broader term. I don't think that'd be the first word used here.

Pack is also possible, but I find myself using that more for processed things. In other words, I would say "a pack of pencils" or "a pack of cigarettes," but NOT "a pack of flour."

In all honesty, this really goes case by case, depending on the packaging, the item in the packaging, and sometimes even the part of the country that you're in.

  • 4
    I think you explained it well. Although container is really generic in AmE, the way I use it tends to be for things that have a resealable lid, like these plastic ones. Most things at the store can be called packages I think, but it gets a little tricky because this is a bag of chips but this is a package of tortillas even though it's in a resealable bag.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 26 '15 at 1:14

I can't believe I didn't notice the WORD CHOICE notes at the end of that same Longman Dictionary webpage:

package, packet, packaging, packing, pack
!! Do not confuse these similar words.

A package is a parcel, usually sent by post
A package containing a bomb was delivered to her home.

In American English, a package is also a paper or plastic container that food etc is sold in
a package of cookies

In British English, a packet is a box, bag, or some other container that things are sold in
a packet of biscuitsa packet of crisps.

A packet can also sometimes be called a pack
a pack of cigarettes.
This meaning of pack is also used in American English.

In American English, a packet is a small flat paper or plastic container for something such as tomato ketchup or sugar. The British word for this is sachet.

Packaging is material that is put round things that are sold, to protect them or to encourage people to buy them
It's the same old stuff in better packaging.

Packing is material that is put around things to protect them, especially from getting damaged in the post
Carefully remove the computer from its foam packing.

(American usages are in bold)

This is similar to TRomano's second comment and Jim's comment, and Alex's nicely elaborate answer.


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