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A native Spaniard here, asking about what we call metacrilato — this manufactured product:

Coloured plastic sheeting

What would you call it? I have seen use both acrylic and Methacrylate, maybe one of them is more technical.

4 Answers 4

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Methacrylate does seem more technical. I'm a native speaker of English with a semi-decent vocabulary, and I had to look up what it meant.

Acrylic is a word everyone knows, but on its own, it's not specific enough--it can refer to acrylic paints or acrylic fibers, for example. And I'm not sure if everyone knows that these materials can be referred to as acrylic sheets or acrylic glass.

I think Plexiglas is the most common term in the US, with the genericized plexiglass as a less common variant spelling. Alternatively, it's sometimes referred to by the trademark Lucite. In the UK, the trademark Perspex is instead more common.


EDIT: With ChrisH's help, I've come up with a pair of hopefully less misleading charts from Google Ngram Viewer, included here because everyone loves charts. First, when set to "American English", Google gives us this chart, supporting Plexiglas as the most popular:

AmE

And another chart, with Google Ngram Viewer set to "British English", which suggests that Perspex is more popular over there:

BrE

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  • A couple of issues with that ngram: you've used methylacrylate not methacrylate, which comes top, also perspex is on a par with plexiglass (case-insensitive link)
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 14:37
  • @ChrisH Ah, thank you--though you left out plexiglas with one s, which (as expected) comes out on top in American English. (The generic plexiglass with two esses is less common.) It seems that perspex comes out on top when you set it to British English. Checking COCA and GloWbE confirm this: Plexiglas is a far more popular option in the US. I'll update my answer presently.
    – user28567
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 14:46
  • I'd never noticed it with 1 s - I guess that's the trademarked form - maybe I'd always mentally corrected it! a nice pair of graphs in the end.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 15:04
  • Please add clickable links for the ngrams to the pictures Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 16:09
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These are acrylic sheets made of acrylic plastic, or, as sometimes called, acrylic glass (Polymethyl methacrylate).

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Colloquially the trademark Perspex (also Lucite) is used generically for clear/translucent acrylic sheet -and even for similar looking materials.

Edit I think perspex is more common in the UK, while lucite (or plexiglass as in another answer) more common in the US, and ngrmas would appear to agree.

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A layperson, who is not an industrial designer, manufacturer, or other person that is professionally-involved in turned raw materials into products, will only ever say:

plastic

green plastic, orange plastic

I have found that some know the word 'acrylic'.

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  • 1
    That may be, but the OP should be aware that "plastic sheet" is more commonly used as a synonym for "tarp" (tarpaulin). Without context "sheet of plastic" is more likely to evoke the meaning in the question.
    – horatio
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 16:01

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