Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was looking for a word to describe a sort of cloth sheath you could use to store a boule de pétanque. I found myself in the strange position of knowing the appropriate word in French (housse) and in Spanish (funda) but not in my native language. Both these words basically mean a covering. Those are the words used in their respective languages for a (hard or soft) guitar case for example.

I was imagining a kind of form-fitting sock that the boule could be put in. The image I have in mind is something like the socks sold as protective covers for mobile phones:

enter image description here

What would that be called in English? I tried dictionary translation but got things like sheath, slipcover and dust cover. Sheath does not work on a sphere and the other two don't work for me in this context either (please let me know if you disagree).

The best I could come up with is a jacket but again, not as general as case. Basically I am looking for a word that would describe a form fitting, soft protective cover without implying hardness (case), a particular shape (sheath) or a specific use (dust cover makes me think of machinery and slipcover of furniture).

EDIT: I just thought of sleeve as in record sleeve but I am not sure that I've ever heard it used outside the context of records or CDs or disks in general. That's the type of thing I am looking for though, something that is used more to protect than to transport.

If you believe that one of the words I have mentioned is the best fit, please let me know. I feel they are not suited but am quite willing to accept I'm wrong on this one.

share|improve this question
"Protector" is a fairly common term for a form-fitting padded or armoured container designed specifically to protect its contents. –  user867 Nov 15 '13 at 3:29
@user867 good point. That would be something to fall back on at least, that would be easily understood. Thanks. –  terdon Nov 15 '13 at 3:35
"slipcover" is very good. Although it is usually associated with upholstery, there is very little chance of being misunderstood. It is a fitted cover which conforms to the shape of the object. –  Kaz Nov 15 '13 at 5:25
Why do you need an English word to denote the jacket (another of your above words that is good, by the way) surrounding something called a "boule de pétanque". –  Kaz Nov 15 '13 at 5:26
@Kaz because I was speaking English at the time and was intrigued to find I did not know what to call it. It just struck me as strange that I could think of the generic term for it in two languages I learned as an adult and not in one I grew up speaking. –  terdon Nov 15 '13 at 5:35

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think perhaps the term cosy is appropriate. A quick Google search reveals a number of items similar to your picture which are being marketed as a "phone cosy"

For example, a red knit Phone Cosy.

enter image description here

Another application of the term cosy is a tea cosy

Seems to me you might be looking at a ball cosy, although it is more of a neologism than a defined word.

share|improve this answer
Like a "tea cosy", nice one! –  terdon Nov 15 '13 at 3:14
You read my mind @terdon I was updating my answer with a tea cosy reference while you were commenting. :) –  Lumberjack Nov 15 '13 at 3:16
I think it would be understood it if it came with some context: Marge knit a nice cosy for Homer's new bowling ball. –  terdon Nov 15 '13 at 3:21
It should be pointed out that this usage is a little bit whimsical and operates by analogy to an egg cosy which is a (usually knitted) cover to keep a boiled egg warm in the egg cup. I assume the temperature of the boule de pétanque is not so important. –  nekomatic Oct 3 '14 at 7:57
The purpose of a cosy is to keep the thing it is holding warm, so this doesn't seem quite right, although it could work. –  DCShannon yesterday

I immediately thought of a pouch:

noun -- a small bag or other flexible receptacle, typically carried in a pocket or attached to a belt

a tobacco pouch

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
Ah, yes, pouch is good, +1! Again though, as the definition states, a pouch is for carrying not for protection (though it can be used for both obviously). –  terdon Nov 15 '13 at 2:43

The term bag is used in US English for a wide variety of containers

a flexible container with an opening at one end

It also is routinely used to mean luggage and as part of the terms for specialized containers such as

  • gym bag
  • garbage bag
  • feed bag
  • punching bag
  • goody bag
  • laundry bag
  • air sickness bag
  • lunch bag

While these terms are not limited to spherical forms, they are often used to hold such objects.

An alternative is sack.

share|improve this answer
Yes, bag did occur to me but that brings to (my) mind something designed for carrying objects rather than protecting them and is usually not form-fitting. I freely admit I may be asking for too much here though :). Also, I would avoid using sack for something that holds what is essentially a ball. I would run the risk of being misunderstood: Pass me my ball sack would'ya? –  terdon Nov 15 '13 at 2:32
There are bags so named for related equipment, such as bocce ball bags like these, although I might avoid ball bag for the reasons you suggest. –  bib Nov 15 '13 at 2:39
And the possessive is even worse (ball's). Joking apart though, that bag is not really what I want. As you can see in the picture you posted, it is designed more to carry than to protect and is, well a bag, so not form-fitting. Hmm, I just thought of sleeve, that might work. –  terdon Nov 15 '13 at 2:41
@terdon Bags can be protective, and can also be form fitting. Drum bags fit tightly over the drum inside so that the drum does not shift or move, and are designed to protect both the shell and the head from damage. See the link to amazon in my answer. –  DCShannon yesterday
@terdon And a bowling ball bag is roughly spherical and form fitting (some more than others). –  bib yesterday

A form-fitting protective container for an object is sometimes called a shell, which ideally captures the notion of a protective covering for a round object. It usually implies a hard material, but it can be used to refer to an article of clothing intended to be the outermost layer, for protection from weather or moisture.

share|improve this answer

If the purpose is protection, then I would go with 'case' or 'cover', although 'bag' works as well.

'Case' could imply a hard object, whereas 'bag' implies a soft one. Either way, it's a 'cover'.

Something somewhat similar that occurs to me as a drummer: drum cases, covers, and bags

share|improve this answer
Answering here so we don't spam bib. Yes, could work in some contexts (so, +1) but doesn't seem to fit for me here. As a guitarist, not a drummer, bag conjures up far more flimsy things than what I was looking for. I certainly wouldn't put my guitar in a bag! I'm sure it is used as you describe, it just doesn't sound right to my ear. –  terdon yesterday

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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