The water drawn from those 2.5 gallon containers having a spigot (and air hole) is called ‘bottled water’, but what should we call those large containers of water? It seems like “tank” or “tankard” are the best 2 choices. I am partial to ‘tankard’, as ‘tank’ seems to imply something much larger, on the order of at least tens of gallons. However, according to the dictionary, a tankard is merely a large drinking vessel. Is it possible / plausible to extend the meaning of ‘tankard’ to mean ‘large container of bottled water having a spigot and air hole’?

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    In most contexts (a hot water tank or car fuel tank, for example) a tank is a refillable container. OED says the definition of tankard as large open tub-like vessel, usually of wood hooped with iron, etc. is obsolete (the surviving definition is a drinking vessel, as you say). Why would you think that's a suitable candidate? – FumbleFingers Jul 4 '15 at 15:21
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    I call these containers jugs, though that term applies even better to the one-gallon container with a handle. – Nate Eldredge Jul 4 '15 at 15:28
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    Those are just bottles. – tchrist Jul 4 '15 at 16:15
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    Please use images. – Tulains Córdova Jul 4 '15 at 19:12
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    Tankard is totally wrong. – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 5:52

First, a word in clarification: "bottles" would be the term I would naturally use for these containers. However, after using that same word - not once, but three times - the OP asks for another term. That is the nature of this OP.

So, as a second-choice, rather than tankard (its Middle English origins notwithstanding), perhaps a suitable term would be cask? While it's true that casks lack the bottle's characteristic neck, which is really the only feature distinguishing one from the other, cask would seem a viable second-choice

bottle noun: 1 a: a rigid or semi-rigid container typically of glass or plastic having a comparatively narrow neck or mouth and usually no handle. (Merriam-Webster online)

cask noun: a large barrel-like container made of wood, metal, or plastic, used for storing liquids, typically alcoholic drinks.

synonyms: barrel, keg, butt, tun, vat, drum, hogshead; historical firkin; "casks of ale for the crew" (Google)

tankard noun: 1. a tall beer mug, typically made of silver or pewter, with a handle and sometimes a hinged lid.

Origin: Middle English (denoting a large tub for carrying liquid): perhaps related to Dutch tanckaert. (Oxford Dictionaries online)

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    Yes, I think ‘cask’ is the word of choice. (However, does this mean that the one-gallon containers will come to be called ‘caskettes’, and, finally, ‘caskets’?) – EsperantoSpeaker1 Jul 4 '15 at 16:14
  • Good one, @EsperantoSpeaker1 :-) – user98990 Jul 4 '15 at 16:24
  • Casks are for alcohol and tankards are what you drink it from. If I asked what's in the cask and it was water, I'd be disappointed. – Mazura Jul 4 '15 at 19:44
  • @Mazura - sorry to disappoint you. We needn't be bound by the typical. I think a plastic "cask" could effectively carry water and is a serviceable term here. – user98990 Jul 4 '15 at 20:11
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    I'm afraid "cask" is totally wrong. Eva, are you familiar with the things being described? Quite simply, those are not barrel-like and have utterly no connection to kegs, butts, tuns, vats, drums, etc. Note that the bottles in question have necks at the top and are a totally different family from drums, casks, barrels. – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 5:51

I think you are looking for a carboy or a demijohn. They are usually made of glass but they can be plastic also. For commercial use, they usually contain distilled water and they can be used in households.

A carboy or demijohn is a rigid container with a typical capacity of 20 to 60 L (5 to 15 gallons). Carboys are primarily used for transporting liquids, often water or chemicals. Wikipedia

Carboy is from Persian qarāba large flagon (for wine, rose water, etc.; of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Arabic qirba large leather bottle, water-skin)OED

Demijohn is from French dame-jeanne (1694 Th. Corneille dame-jane, 1701 Furetière Dame Jeanne, lit. ‘Dame Jane’)OED

Note: The picture is added later to the question and I would like to add some further details. Water delivery companies call them bottled-water mostly but OP wanted to differentiate from smaller or larger containers. Carboys and demijohns have the capacity level that OP is asking for and they are used for water delivery/storage. Although, they might not be prevalent in everyday usage and might be more prevalent in industrial usage. These containers have other usages also. For example, they can be used as a fermenter in homebrewing.

From the book Homebrewing For Dummies By Marty Nachel:

Carboys are large cylindrical jugs that water delivery companies used for years until they switched to the plastic carboys today.

  • I'm afraid this is completely wrong. While it is erudite and admirable to point out that carboy, demijohn are cool historical (and perhaps, say, scientific) words for "large bottles" ... I encourage to find even one reference to the water delivery bottles in question, on the 4.54 billion pages of the internet – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 5:55
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    @JoeBlow: You didn't search enough and OP wanted to differentiate from smaller or larger containers. These containers have the capacity level that OP is asking for. Although, they might not be prevalent in everyday usage and might be more prevalent in industrial usage. Naturally you can just call it "bottled water" of course but OP has details. – ermanen Jul 5 '15 at 13:53
  • @JoeBlow: One of the many references: books.google.ca/… – ermanen Jul 5 '15 at 13:54
  • outstanding reference, good one. but it is in a beer brewing context. you won't find Culligan, as it were, calling them anything but bottles (or maybe just "containers")... – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 16:46
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    @JoeBlow: I already said that it is not prevalent in everyday usage but it is what it is and that is the name of that type of bottle. You are the one who is misleading and wrong from the beginning. – ermanen Jul 5 '15 at 17:00

They are bottles, exactly as Chasly points out. You can so trivially find 100,000 usages on the internet, it is not worth making a link here.

Note that your best bet is probably to refer to them as:

"water delivery bottles"

or perhaps better

"water cooler bottles"

That would be the most absolutely clear way to refer to them.

Consider propane/cng bottles which are a similar size. It's true that propane/cng "tanks" are so-called in some English-speaking regions - but they are propane/cng "bottles" in others. The water cooler bottles to which you refer, OP, are much more bottle-like than cng-bottles ... the water cooler bottles are completely bottle-like topologically, with a neck and open mouth and so on ... so I think you would struggle to call them "tanks". As Fumble astutely notes, tanks are refillable things. {Indeed, you only "get away with" calling cng bottles 'tanks', rather than 'bottles', for that very reason, I feel.}

Finally I direct you to tchrist's comment. "Those are just bottles." It's that simple.

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    "Bottles" would be the term I would naturally use also. However, after using that same word - not once, but twice - the OP asks for another term. That's the point of this OP. And Joe, all the bolded text, screaming "bottles, bottles" is unnecessary. I feel fairly confident that the vast majority of us realized, long before you posted this answer that "bottles" was the natural term for such containers, so it seems we are suggesting alternatives. Try to relax Joe, you're scaring me. – user98990 Jul 5 '15 at 10:43
  • Hi Eva! If you interpret "bold" or "large" letters on screen as "screaming" or another vocal or social analogue - well, it's your life to LIVE as you CHOOSE!" Good luck with that! :) Note that the OP does not, even once, use the word "bottle". The OP refers to them as "large containers of water". (Feel free to delete or edit your comment to avoid ongoing confusion.) Glossing over it, you may have spotted the two "bottled water" references (one in quotes) from the OP, causing the confusion. Cont... – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 11:15
  • Also, the OP does not at all ask for "another term". Note that, even if the OP had mentioned "bottle", it's commonplace on SWRs that a user asks 'what do I call word X?' - and the answer is "in fact, you call it word X". Again, I mention this purely as a unrelated issue. The OP is asking for the word for the thing bottled water in that size cometh in. – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 11:15
  • Regarding your more general vibe, why am I emphatically over and over, uh, emphasizing the answer? This web site is often really amazingly confused. (Example at hand.) Often the only hope is to, in a word, repeat something - say - about seven times. – Fattie Jul 5 '15 at 11:18
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    @LittleEva this is a restrained answer from Joe! It's positively held back in chains, muffled and gagged compared to some of his more colourful posts. Although I have to say the It's that simple catchphrase is wearing thin on me. :)) – Mari-Lou A Jul 5 '15 at 15:46

If the plastic or glass container comes with a tap or spigot, it can be called: a drink or beverage dispenser. The capacity of the containers is usually mentioned, such as: “a 3-gallon beverage dispenser” (with or without the hyphen). Barrel beverage dispensers needn't be wooden nor have to be filled with alcohol.

enter image description here enter image description here

A 5-gallon water dispenser is a plastic jug that contains bottled water. Without the spigot (or tap) they are just called (1.5/3/5/10 gallon) water bottle. enter image description hereenter image description here

Rain barrels or rainwater tanks are large containers, often made of plastic, for collecting and storing rainwater that run from rooftops.

enter image description here

  • “dispenser” is good, and so I’m upvoting your answer, but “cask” is better, being only one syllable. So, if someone doesn’t understand “cask”, then my plan B is to use “dispenser”. – EsperantoSpeaker1 Jul 8 '15 at 20:20

These are called jugs of water. See foe example the 3 and 5 gallon jugs here: http://tulpehockenwater.com/products.asp

  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. – deadrat Jul 5 '15 at 18:53
  • @deadrat jug of water is what these are called. – Eric Jul 5 '15 at 18:54
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    Possibly. But you said that's what you have always called them that. I've always called them clear-round-plastic thingies. Which of us should the innocent believe? Certainly they fit the definition of "jug," but is there a term of art or common slang usage in the bottled-water business? – deadrat Jul 5 '15 at 19:00

In the trade they call them bottles. Maybe flagon or pitcher.


If you are referring to these,

Link to picture

These are called 'gallons' in our local shops. Haven't heard of any other name elsewhere till date (though they might exist).

https://www.google.co.in/search?q=water+gallon will also give you these.

Note: Gallon also refers to these:

Link to picture


I would call them " xx liter bottles". Even jug and pitcher are lesser known than bottles. Everyone know what a bottle is. Go ask a three year old which word they know best. That will be the best one.

The best word or the most accurate should only be the one that most people agree on not what dictionary says is accurate (well unless everyone else around you is English professor).

  • I agree with you first sentence. The important part is its capacity; call it whatever you want. – Mazura Jul 5 '15 at 22:33

Jerry can? I think jerry can or jerrycan/jerrican maybe a good alternative to large plastic bottle... It's a particular shape of course similar to some of the pictures posted here.

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