Perhaps "sticky tape" is childish? Sellotape is British?

It should be general and indicate the transparent, adhesive tape.

Thanks for your input.

  • You can find useful reference here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch_Tape
    – user66974
    Nov 18, 2014 at 10:28
  • books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Kris
    Nov 18, 2014 at 14:33
  • @Kris The ngrams are useless without interpretation. The fact that "Scotch tape" is the most common term indicates only that it's the most widely used term in one of the largest English-speaking communities (the USA). The question specifically asks about global understandability and, since "Scotch tape" is a trademark, it will only be understood where that particular product is widely known. I'm not sure if people in the UK know what "Scotch tape" is, for example (actually, the packaging shown on Wikipedia looks familiar so maybe it is sold here). Nov 18, 2014 at 16:29
  • 4
    @DavidRicherby, to my UK understanding Scotch tape is slightly different to generic adhesive tape/Sellotape: Scotch tape a a roughened surface that can be written on with a ballpoint pen and looks translucent until applied when it appears transparent. It's also easier to tear. According the the wikipedia article this is "Scotch magic tape"
    – Chris H
    Nov 18, 2014 at 16:52
  • 3
    "Scotch Magic" is a particular type of Scotch tape that is "frosty on the roll, invisible on the job", unlike the original Scotch "cellophane" tape which was shiny on the roll and still shiny after application. "Magic" tape was first introduced in the US around 1960, I'm vaguely recalling. Now that the "Magic" patent has no doubt expired most brands of household "cellophane tape" in the US have the same properties.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 18, 2014 at 22:22

5 Answers 5


Adhesive tape seems perfectly fine.

Both Scotch tape and Sellotape (not cello) are proprietary brand names (owned by 3M and Henkel) and may not be recognized in countries where the tape was either not marketed or not marketed under that brand name. It seems 3M marketed it as Sticky Tape in Australia.

If it is important that your audience understand that the tape is transparent, then simply call it, as you wrote, transparent adhesive tape. However, I suspect that for most people, adhesive tape is almost automatically assumed to be transparent unless you explicitly state the opposite.

As TRomano points out, U.S. audiences may indeed understand adhesive tape to be (non-transparent) masking tape, so your best bet is probably to include transparent.

  • Adhesive tape suggests to me that one side is plastic-coated in a solid colour. The image is taken from the first results on Google images.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 18, 2014 at 19:45
  • 1
    But Adhesive tape is clearly the most popular term. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 18, 2014 at 19:50
  • In the US "adhesive tape" has traditionally been reserved for tape to be used for bandaging wounds, etc, in particular the white cloth tape. However, "transparent adhesive tape" would probably be understood to mean "Scotch tape".
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 18, 2014 at 22:27
  • And, as an aside, real "cellophane" largely disappeared from common use 30-40 years ago. Cellophane is a particular type of clear flexible plastic which is not at all "stretchy" (making it a good base for the original "Scotch" tape). For packaging, cellophane has largely been supplanted by other plastics, primarily polyethylene, that have more "stretch" and which can be thermally "welded". I'm not sure what is currently used as the base for most transparent tapes, but it's not cellophane. About the only place cellophane is still used is the "window" of boxes for bakery goods, etc.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 18, 2014 at 23:12
  • The more common sticky tape these days is not transparent- it's translucent. "Clear" has the same problem. Using "translucent adhesive tape" or "translucent sticky tape" would probably work, but it rules out the clear variety for (perhaps) no good reason. Nov 18, 2014 at 23:54

I'd go with "sticky tape", or "clear sticky tape". I don't think it' childish, and I think it's the generic name least likely to cause confusion.

Adhesive tape to me is a broad term that encompasses sticky tape, electrical tape, masking tape, duct tape, and perhaps some forms of medical tapes.

Try the different terms with google images and you'll see what I mean.

  • I agree, and yet, I once had a USAn look at me cluelessly when I used the term. However, he was, to borrow his own phrase, a bit of a 'dumb ass'. Nov 21, 2014 at 23:18
  • To clarify, I was referring to the term 'sticky tape' in my previous comment. Nov 21, 2014 at 23:26

Cellophane tape is a generic term for that kind of tape.

  • 5
    Cellophane is a distinctly different thing (also known as cling film). You mean cellulose tape, and no, that is not, as far as I know, widely recognized to mean adhesive tape.
    – oerkelens
    Nov 18, 2014 at 12:07
  • 3
    Not in the US. "Scotch [TM] brand tape is the best brand of cellophane tape". It's the transparent adhesive tape you find in dispensers on office desks, utility tables, everywhere. Sticky on one side.
    – TRomano
    Nov 18, 2014 at 12:09
  • 6
    Then your answer is also not useful. The OP specifically asks about something that is globally recognized, and I can assure you that an American misunderstanding of cellophane to mean cellulose is not globally recognized. Henkel called their adhesive tape Sellotape, for cellulose tape. Both adhesive tape and cling film are (or were) made from cellulose. I can assure you that cellophane tape will be interpreted as cling film tape, whatever that is, by many people outside of the U.S.
    – oerkelens
    Nov 18, 2014 at 12:14
  • 2
    @Mari Probably not a good choice for English, though. “If the wound starts to reopen, apply copious amounts of Scotch” would probably give some very unintended results outside Italy. :-D Nov 18, 2014 at 12:27
  • 2
    @oerkelens even by the Wikipedia article you cited, you're wrong. "As well as packaging a variety of food items, there are also industrial applications, such as a base for such self-adhesive tapes as Sellotape and Scotch Tape". The article also specifically refutes that cellophane is a "distinctly different thing (also known as cling film)". Therefore "cellophane" in reference to tape is correct, and in reference to cling wrap is incorrect. To the topic at hand though, I would agree that not everyone would immediately understand what cellophane tape is -- as you have made evident :)
    – Doktor J
    Nov 18, 2014 at 15:39

In the US "cellophane tape" is the generic (non-trademark) term for clear sticky tape of the sort commonly used to fix paper items.

"Adhesive tape" is normally reserved for the (usually) white medical tape.

"Masking tape" is the term for a tape made from opaque paper (usually a light tan color, though often green or blue), where the tape is supposedly intended for use by painters to "mask off" areas not to be painted.

"Electrical tape" is the term for (usually black) plastic, rubber, or occasionally cloth tape of the sort intended for electrical wiring.

"Friction tape" is another term for cloth electrical tape.

"Duct tape" (more properly "duck tape") is a relatively wide (usually 2-3 inches) tape made from lightweight cloth ("duck") with a sort of thin plastic coating, with a fairly gooey adhesive. This is an inexpensive tape commonly used for sealing packages, temporary repairs, etc. (It, BTW, should never be used for sealing air ducts, or any other permanent use.)

There are, of course, other specialized tapes such as hockey tape, housewrap tape, etc.

  • I've never heard 'cellophane tape' before. In my experience, cellophane is only that clear plastic wrap used on food items, which most of my childhood acquaintances grew up calling by the brand name 'Saran wrap.' Maybe it's a regional thing. Nov 18, 2014 at 23:00
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas - You must have led a deprived childhood. ;)
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 18, 2014 at 23:01

I would avoid 'Scotch Tape', because I suspect many people would think you specifically mean that brand. It has properties that are sometimes specifically sought, and I've worked in offices where it's kept alongside 'regular' sticky tape, for different purposes. (Scotch Tape is less apparent, and much less likely to fade yellow, but sticky tape generally has greater tensile strength.)

(This is from my many years' living experience each in Australia and the US, and also other English-speaking countries.)

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