Is there a word used to describe items that would need to be replaced over time from regular usage in regard to office supplies like paper cups, room fresheners, tissue boxes, etc?

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    There's bound to be a specific word but since no one has answered yet these come to mind: replaceable, disposable, diminishing - though neither of those are really as specific to the 'wear and tear' you described. I've heard people use temperamental to describe things like that but the actual definition of temperamental refers to behaviors and emotions, so probably not a good choice.
    – Eric
    Jul 22, 2015 at 19:36
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    A related concept is a company's deliberately designing a product or a component to have a limited lifespan, named planned obsolescence.
    – jsoteeln
    Jul 22, 2015 at 21:40
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    Although not a single word, I’d call these limited lifetime parts/items. And I’d use this term to describe relatively long-lived things (not ink and toner which are consumables) but things like lightbulbs
    – Jim
    Jul 23, 2015 at 5:07
  • Parts subject to wear and tear (just lifted from Leo, the excellent German word is Verschleissteile)
    – RedSonja
    Jul 23, 2015 at 7:10
  • The answers are all over the map, clearly indicating that the question is not clear. What is the part of speech you are after? What is the context, domain, and register? Where is your example sentence? Is it even a good thing or a bad thing? Give us something, anything, to work with.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 23, 2015 at 13:20

10 Answers 10


You might try "consumable", which is defined by oxforddictionaries.com as "a commodity that is intended to be used up relatively quickly". That site offers this as a usage example:

...[this brand's] printers benefit from years of heritage and the relatively easy availability of consumables.

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    I thought about that one too but in most all definitions of the word it doesn't describe it in a way that matches 'wear and tear'. Consumable items are used up like fuel or depleted and not just worn out from use. It might be as close as we get though. Expend/expendable is similar as well.
    – Eric
    Jul 22, 2015 at 20:11
  • Yes, there's definitely a difference in degree between the various types of consumables. But with printers specifically, there's a lot of precedent for including some fairly massive and expensive mechanical parts among the "consumables". In the patent application at "www.google.com/patents/US6959159", we see "examples of replaceable printing device components, often referred to as consumables, include paper, toner cartridges, ink cartridges, ribbon cartridges, fusers, photoconductors, drums, intermediate transfer belts, and the like". Jul 22, 2015 at 20:21
  • @DougWarren Other than Drums/Belts, the purpose of printing is to use the paper/toner/ink/ribbon. I'm not sure whether something in the fuser/photoconductor is 'used up' during use, but I'd say that the broadening of this term is fairly restricted to printing, as I don't see it used in many other places Jul 23, 2015 at 12:36

In some contexts, and as your question implies, these would be called wear items. Auto headlamps and hoses, etc, are usually excluded from warranty because they are expected to eventually wear out.

In a different context you have consumables, not that these are expected to fail, only to be replenished in the course of use. Copier toner is a consumable.


Disposable is the usual term in Britain.

  • Also in America.
    – Don Jewett
    Jul 22, 2015 at 21:27

Perhaps you can use "nondurable goods"

nondurable goods


goods that remain usable for, or must be replaced within, a relatively short period of time, as food, apparel, or fabrics

as opposed to "durable goods"

durable goods


goods, such as most producer goods and some consumer goods, that require infrequent replacement. Compare disposable goods, perishables Also called: durables


Serviceable [Dictionary.com definition 3]

capable of being used, worn, cleaned, repaired, etc., easily.

'The serviceable parts include brake pads, clutch plate...'

  • This is particularly suitable for vehicles and is commonly seen. It does, however, also imply that you can 'fix'/maintain it in certain cases (i.e. oil changes) Jul 23, 2015 at 12:33

As Eric said above, I think 'replaceable' implies that the piece will need replacing at some point. Also,'long-lasting' suggests that the item does ultimately come to an end (I can't comment yet, thus the answer).


sacrificial, sac·ri·fi·cial, adjective —Google

designed to be used up or destroyed in fulfilling a purpose or function.

Galvanic anode —Wiki

A galvanic anode [protects metal structures from corrosion].

They are made from a metal alloy with a more "active" voltage (more negative reduction potential / more positive electrochemical potential) than the metal of the structure. The difference in potential between the two metals means that the galvanic anode corrodes, so that the anode material is consumed in preference to the structure.

The loss (or sacrifice) of the anode material gives rise to the alternative name of sacrificial anode.

sacrificial partWiki

A sacrificial part is a part of a machine or product that is intentionally engineered to fail under excess mechanical stress, electrical stress, or other unexpected and dangerous situations. The sacrificial part is engineered to fail first, and thus protect other parts of the system.

E.g., electrical fuses, over-pressure burst disks, mechanical shear pins, galvanic anodes, ect.

Welding rod is a consumable. The fuses protecting the welder are sacrificial. The holes in your gloves are to be expected as most PPE has a finite lifespan and requires daily inspection.

Things Fall Apart —Chinua Achebe, 1958

  • @AndyT Galvanic anodes, to use Mazura's example, aren't used up very quickly; they're meant to protect the structure they're attached to (e.g. a sailboat) over an extended period of time. The concept of sacrificial material doesn't imply a particular life span of the material. You might be confusing this concept with something more violent and sudden, like ritual sacrifice.
    – talrnu
    Jul 23, 2015 at 13:22
  • The inherent need to replace sacrificial components in a system could be debated, but I think the main issue with sacrificial is its similarity to consumable, which as others have pointed out doesn't quite align with the asker's needs (destruction by wear and tear vs. consumption).
    – talrnu
    Jul 23, 2015 at 14:28

Unrepairable I can't think of anything that won't wear out over time. Friction and erosion -- "wear and tear" can be reduced, but can never be eliminated. But things used to be much more repairable than they now are, and part after part could be replaced. It is now impractical to repair many things, so people just throw them away and buy a new item. When was the last time you called a TV repairman? Repair: "To restore to a sound or good state after decay or injury. To remedy, heal or mend." Webster's New Collegiate. Thus, unrepairable is "Not capable of being repaired"


"depreciable" or "depreciating" may work

  • 2
    Example usages would be nice.
    – deadrat
    Jul 22, 2015 at 22:21
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    This answer would be stronger if you included definitions of the two words you suggest as answers, along with (as deadrat notes) example usages. Such additions raise the quality of an answer and make it less comment-like.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jul 22, 2015 at 23:02

In computer science, we use the word "Transient"

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    We’re looking for more substantial answers here rather than off-the-cuff comments.
    – tchrist
    Jul 23, 2015 at 13:21

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