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I assume usually you don’t say USB flash disk, right?

By the way, in Chinese we call it something more like U Disk.

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We call them "Data Sticks" in my company. –  Urbycoz Jul 25 '12 at 9:21
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13 Answers 13

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Conversationally, I've usually heard them called a drive (not a disc). Here in the U.S., I've heard all of these terms used:

It will be interesting to hear what others say; this might be a regional thing.

By the way, I was curious: I typed "flash drive" and "U disk" into Google Images (in "quotes"), just to see what kind of results I'd get. (That's not a bad way to see if a term means what you think it means. Both searches yielded plenty of pictures of the devices in question; however, "U disk" yielded over one million results, while "flash drive" returned more than 32 million. Such a disparity might suggest that the latter is a more common term, though this is a very unscientific method, and should not be treated as incontrovertible evidence.)

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USB drive tends to imply external hard disk drive around here, and flash drives may be understood as internal SDD. –  SF. Jul 25 '12 at 9:37
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Sometimes just thumb drive –  mhoran_psprep Jul 25 '12 at 10:33
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We call them "jump drives" around the office because we think that's hilarious. –  KitFox Jul 25 '12 at 13:16
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I've never heard it called a "thumbnail drive", and I would interpret that term as a misremembering/corruption/portmanteau of "thumbnail-as-in-small-picture" and "thumb drive". –  Marthaª Jul 25 '12 at 15:19
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I've also heard "jump drive," and I commonly hear "thumb drive" but NEVER "thumbnail drive." –  alcas Dec 30 '12 at 17:48
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Not yet stated, I have always referred to them as memory sticks.

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Forgot about this one, even though it is the one I always call them. Edited my answer below as you reminded me of it and +1'd you :) –  David Watts Jul 25 '12 at 13:13
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I suppose memory stick is only used by SONY? –  Deqing Jul 25 '12 at 14:02
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Yeah, Memory Stick would probably work for most people, but would cause confusion with anyone who was familiar with Sony products because it is a brand name for them. You'll notice even on the Wikipedia article, they have a disambiguation notice at the top directing people looking for USB flash drives. –  Ben Dyer Jul 25 '12 at 14:12
    
Wow, I never knew memory stick was brand-oriented! I guess it's the new "hoover"! –  Ste Jul 26 '12 at 9:36
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Here (Scotland) I have heard it called:

  • USB key
  • USB drive
  • Flash drive
  • Pen drive
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Also in Scotland, I'd often use "USB thingummy". I've also heard people simple calling them a USB, e.g. "Has anyone got a spare USB?". –  neil Aug 8 '12 at 10:57
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In the US I mostly hear equally:

  • USB drive (literally sounds too general, but everyone knows it's the small thing)
  • thumb drive (sounds strange because it's not as thick as your thumb, but everyone knows it's the small thing).
  • flash drive (literally the most accurate, not evocative of the size, but everyone knows it's the small thing).
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I know lots of people, me included, who call them jump drives.

It is like Xerox and Aspirin. JumpDrive is/was a Lexar name for their flash drive, but even Wikipedia’s article on USB flash drives recognizes jump drive as a term.

WiseGeek says:

JumpDrive is a Lexar brand name for a Universal Serial Bus (USB) storage device, also called a USB flash drive (UFD). As is sometimes the case with brand names, the term “jumpdrive” is occasionally used by consumers when referring to any USB flash drive, in the same way “Kleenex” is often used to refer to any brand of facial tissue. Technically, the industry refers to these devices as UFDs, though consumers are mostly unfamiliar with the acronym, more often using terms like memory stick, thumb drive, or flash drive.

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I call it a USB stick, and if I need to be specific I might call it a USB thumb drive.

Some thoughts to keep in mind when looking for a name:

Thumb/Flash/Pen/...

  • It normally uses flash memory, meaning that data must be written in large blocks.
  • It is sometimes shaped like a pen, so it could be called a pen drive.
  • It isn't some kind of hardware key (like a thumbprint reader), though it could contain a software key. And it is small enough that you could put it on a keychain. However, I don't really think this works very well.
  • USB drive normally implies an external hard-drive (whether solid-state or disc) with a USB connection. A USB thumb drive is technically external, but minus the stereotypical USB cord.
  • They are normally about the size of your thumb so calling it a USB thumb drive works fine.
  • I've never heard of a fire-wire thumb drive, so just calling it a thumb drive will probably work.

And no, they don't use discs.

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People call it flash disk in Indonesia, or sometimes just flash.

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It isn’t just Indonesia. That’s what I always use, too. –  tchrist Dec 30 '12 at 19:05
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I've never seen anyone calling it "USB data disk" conversationally yet.

The most commonly used name is "pendrive" (sometimes spelled as "pen drive"), even if the form factor doesn't resemble a pen at all.

Pendrive yields 116,000,000 Google hits. Pen Drive - 35,100,000.

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As a side note, most don't look like a pen, although some do. Maybe that's where the term originated? –  J.R. Jul 25 '12 at 9:40
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I'm in the U.S. (Midwest) and I've never heard of a pendrive or pen drive. –  JLG Jul 25 '12 at 14:19
    
My sister had one of those pen drives, but its capacity is sadly inadequate to today's needs. Plus, the ink ran out. –  Marthaª Jul 25 '12 at 15:22
    
I have never in my life until 30 seconds ago here heard of a “pen drive”. –  tchrist Dec 30 '12 at 19:04
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In the UK, the main terms I have heard them referred to as are USB drive, memory stick, and pen drive.

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USB stick, thumb drive, or a memory stick are the most common terms I hear for them in the United States.

Disk is a term for a physical item put into a computer that isn't much used any more like a hard or floppy disk or a CD. Or it could be the disk drive that is built into the computer, so using the term USB flash disk would confuse someone from the USA, but the person would probably get that you mean the little stick thing that plugs into a computer and holds files on it.

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In India, pen drive is used frequently among common peoples. In the colloquial language its more prevalent. But flash drive is also now coming slowly in to the picture. In India many manufacturers uses this term readily.

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Not yet stated, in the country I live it is also called "Cool Disk".

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I have heard it called:

USB; do you have your USB on you?

Flash disk

Memory stick

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protected by tchrist Dec 30 '12 at 13:06

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