What exactly is the fruit preserve called "jam" in the U.S.?

Is it what is referred to in France as "confiture"?

If so, then what would be the French for,

  • what is called "jelly" in the U.S. ("jam" in the UK)-

  • what is called "jello" in the U.S. ("jelly" in the UK)-

In other words, what would the average American commonly call the "confiture" and "gelée" preserves typically found for breakfast in every French hotel?

  • "jam" and "jelly"?

  • "preserve" and "jelly"?

  • "jelly" and "jello"?

  • "jelly" and "gelatin"?

  • something else?

Fiches pratiques confitures, gelées, marmelades de fruits et produits similaires

Google Pictures confiture de fraises

Google Pictures confiture de groseilles

Google Pictures gelée de fraises

Google Pictures gelée de groseilles

Ngram AmEng 2009

Ngram BrEng 2009


Red currant "gelée"

Strawberry "confiture"


a food made by boiling fruit and sugar to a thick consistency M-W

n (to eat) confiture f

strawberry jam la confiture de fraises Collins English-French Dictionary

In English marmalade refers only to a food made from oranges, lemons, limes, or grapefruit. Don't use it to refer to a similar food made from other fruits, for example blackberries, strawberries, or apricots. A food like this is called jam in British English, and jam or jelly in American English. I bought a jar of raspberry jam. She made us jelly sandwiches. (Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers, Ed. 2012)


a soft somewhat elastic food product made usually with gelatin or pectin; especially : a fruit product made by boiling sugar and the juice of fruit M-W

n (=dessert) gelée f

In the middle of the table stood a large bowl of jelly.

(US) (=jam) confiture f

I had two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Collins English-French Dictionary


fruit canned or made into jams or jellies or cooked whole or in large pieces in a syrup so as to keep its shape; a jar of strawberry preserve M-W

n (=jam) confiture f

Brush top of pudding with apricot preserve or honey.

The store cupboard was full of preserves.

a plate of butter and a jar of rhubarb preserves.

strawberry preserve

a spiced cranberry preserve to go with the turkey de la confiture de canneberges épicée pour aller avec la dinde Collins English-French Dictionary


Trademark. a brand of dessert made from a mixture of gelatin, sugar, and fruit flavoring, dissolved in hot water and chilled until firm. Random House

n (US) (=jelly) gelée f Collins English-French Dictionary

jello/jelly/gelatin (AmEng/BrEng) WordReference Discussion


an edible jelly made with gelatin M-W

  • 7
    As I understand it, jelly is strained, while jam is not. Marmalade is made from citrus fruits, including the peel. It might help if you explained the different between confiture, confiture extra, gelée, and marmelade in French, since there is no such thing as strawberry marmalade in English. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 15:25
  • 3
    Jam has fruit in it, jelly doesn't. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 15:42
  • 3
    H B Casimir's essay When does Jam Become Marmalade? in the wonderful A Random Walk in Science is about how the British make a distinction between "jam" and "marmalade" that is nearly incomprehensible to foreigners. Well, it's actually about how the British make a distinction between "science" and other branches of learning which is hard to make in German or Dutch; but jam/marmalade is the vehicle for his point.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 16:07
  • 3
    Closely related: What's the difference between “jelly” and “jam”?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 17:00
  • 3
    In AmE, there are a number of fruity bread spreads: jelly (thick clear fruit spread), jam (thick fruit spread with pieces of fruit), preserves (really thick jam with lots of fruit). In AmE, Jello is not in that set (it is something you eat entirely by itself).
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 18:46

3 Answers 3


What exactly is the fruit preserve called "jam" in the U.S? [my emphasis]

I'm answering the question from the point of view of language, what these words mean to the speakers who use them. Thus, many speakers might call a fruit spread in a dish jam or jelly based on regional preferences rather than on the actual recipe.

Many foods on the American supermarket shelf are not what their labels say they are, so many Americans could not tell you the difference between jam and jelly, only that they tend to use the one or the other word. For many speakers, these words refer to a sweet spread, gelatinous in texture, that seems to be fruit-based (grape, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, etc) though it may contain no fruit only fruit-juice, or no real fruit product at all, merely some artificial fruit flavoring and coloring.

Jello is a tradename for a rubbery (artificial) fruit-flavored gelatin.

Here's the federal definition per Consumer Reports in a little blurb about the differences, and that's usually a good indication that many people don't know the difference. spreadable fruit and fruit spread are terms without federal definition.

  • 3
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 17:35
  • 2
    I think the commercial reveals a linguistic fact, that for a good many people, the sweet spreadable stuff is jam and for a good many, it's jelly, regardless of what it actually is.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 21:21
  • 2
    +1 specifically for many Americans could not tell you the difference between jam and jelly
    – Daenyth
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 22:50
  • 2
    @Daenyth what is his proof that Americans can't tell the difference or wouldn't know? Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 4:45
  • 2
    @Elian you really need to understand how diverse the US is, especially AmE, so your questions about "What is this equivalent to in AmE?" already start from a misconception that AmE is homogenous. So people who authoritatively make declarations about AmE and how "we say it like this." are setting themselves up for "Oh, really? Prove it to me." I feel upset that some of my own "countrymen" say things like no one knows the difference. Really? Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 14:09

You wrote, "In other words, what would Americans commonly call the "confiture" and "gelée" preserves typically found for breakfast in every French hotel?" The answer, taken from your choices, is "'jam' and 'jelly.'"

In America, jam includes the fruit in the mix; it is thicker, richer, and a bit lumpy in texture. It is spread on toasted bread that has been buttered first. It is also wonderful on vanilla ice cream. Jelly is used in the same way, but it is made from strained fruit and has uniform, smooth and "clear" texture, containing no lumps or pieces of the fruit from which it is made. Americans usually prefer one over the other, but many enjoy both. Jelly spreads more easily (as on a peanut butter sandwich), but jam offers more texture and flavor. We also enjoy marmalade, but use it less frequently and sometimes in different ways, for instance, as a complement to meats like pork.

Jello (tm) is a clear, colored gelatin dessert that is also used to make salads when combined with chunks of various canned fruits and/or marshmallows. In the latter case, it is often chilled and formed in a mold to give it a distinctive shape, with a scalloped top and a hole in the center, the same type of pan sometimes used to make a coffee cake or similar baked dessert. Jello comes in a box as a powder, to which one adds water and sugar while heating the mix. Once the liquid is uniform and clear, it is poured into a glass baking dish or pan and then placed in the refrigerator to chill into the firm, final dessert, which can be cut or spooned into individual servings.

  • Then, why do some French-English dictionaries mark "jelly" as the AmEng for what is referred to in the UK as "jam"? wordreference.com/enfr/jam
    – Elian
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 16:10
  • I don't know. However, I noticed that your reference missed a common usage in police jargon in the U. S.; to wit, "Jammed Up: To get a discipline from your superior officers, In other words to get in trouble; pay dock, C.D. ['Conditional Discharge'], suspension, termination..." from: policemag.com/cop-slang/jammed-up.aspx I realize this is irrelevant to the question at hand, but I found it interesting nevertheless. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 17:16
  • 3
    @Elian British English doesn't really have the equivalent to American "jelly", (roughly jam without the fruit). But since "jelly" in Br. Eng. refers to gelatine (Am. Eng. jello), you can really only translate Am Eng "jelly" into Br Eng "jam". But I think most Americans distinguish the two in the way that Mark describes.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 18:08
  • 1
    @MarkHubbard Although it's true that there is a quite technical term of 'marmelade' for certain types of additions to savory foods, isn't marmelade usually just jam made from citrus that includes the peel? Or maybe 'marmelade' with this meaning is just Br Eng? (I'm a British/Canadian English speaker).
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 18:11
  • @AlanMunn, If there were room, I would paste in the complete quote starting with "The definition of marmalade has evolved over the centuries," but you can read it for yourself at this food-related site: homecooking.about.com/od/cookingfaqs/f/faqmarmalade.htm I found it much more interesting than any of the dictionary definitions I could find online. In short, you're correct. In most U. S. grocery stores, the only marmalade found on the shelves is usually "Orange Marmalade." Of course, specialty shops and online specialty-food sources will most likely include other variants as well. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 19:44

Naming convention summary between British and American English.

| American         | British    | French     | Description                      | Contains fruit (or juice)?   | 
| Jello            | Jelly      | Gelée      | Gelatinous Dessert.              | Gelée yes, others no         |
| Jelly            | Jam        | Gelée      | Smooth fruit spread.             | Either fruit or fruit juice  | 
| Jam / Preserves  | Jam        | Confiture  | Fruit spread containing pieces.  | yes                          | 
| Marmalade        | Marmalade  | Marmelade  | Fruit spread containing peel.    | mostly citrus                | 
* In general, the smooth fruit spread is slightly gelatinous.

It seems like the confusion lies between the American 'Jelly' and the British 'Jam'. I have tried both and the one i tried didn't have real juice and was artificially flavored, but some do have fruit juice.

Gelée seems to fall into the categories of the American Jello/Jelly and confiture is more the traditional British Jam.

  • The French for "marmalade" ("peel jam") is "marmelade"...
    – Elian
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 9:45
  • French "gelée," though, usually contains fruit in the form of juice (or aqueous extract) and pectine. bonnemaman.ch/fr/catalogue-confitures-c1.php#!category=2
    – Elian
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 11:12
  • @Elian i have revised the table. Jello is not particularly known to contain fruit juice.
    – user77261
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 13:27
  • Marmalade is used in the US, though probably less well known than the others. (I suspect many in the US share my distaste for orange marmalade, the only kind readily available, but any grocery with a halfway complete set of such spreads will have marmalade.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 13:37
  • Also, it needs to be noted that (in the US) "jelly" is gelled -- it contains fruit pectins that make it ever so slightly rubbery (though not nearly as much as Jello).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 13:38

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