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I'm looking for a single word that describes a part or item being sold. The word should describe the individual items, not the product line, and should make no delineation between different products. It should just mean "an item which we sell, or is sold". Here's a simple example:

You work at a store that sells widgets. There are multiple product lines. You've got your standard widgets and your deluxe widgets. You have multiple stock of each product.

I want to say somethings like the following:

"Check that all the items to be sold are properly packaged"

"Each item to be sold must be tested before going on the shelf"

"Count how many deluxe items to be sold are in stock"

"Product" does not work as it describes the entire product line. "Part" is too vague, as it has too many other meanings, including the same as "product". "Stock" or "Stock item" does not work as it specifically means things which are in inventory.

  • How 'bout: Check that all the widgets are properly packaged? or Check that all the items are properly packaged? – GoldenGremlin Jul 12 '16 at 22:30
  • Those would work if given proper context, but I'm looking for more specificity. – Dave Jul 12 '16 at 22:48
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    Insofar as you are only in the business of selling, the addition of "to be sold" is superfluous and each sentence should contain simply item or items. – KWinker Jul 12 '16 at 22:54
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    I'd answer with unit, but I'm not sure from your question what sort of word you are really looking for. – hatchet Jul 12 '16 at 23:16
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    In business school, we referred to a single item of inventory as a unit (e.g., "Check that all units are properly packaged"; "Each unit must be tested before going on the shelf"; and, "Count how many units are in stock.") – Benjamin Harman Jul 12 '16 at 23:25
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Product is certainly preferable to item being sold, but have to be a little careful how we use it. This seems like a good working definition of the word:

product a set of identical items produced for sale, e.g. "the new product will double our profits"

products multiple of such sets, e.g. "the two new products will quadruple our profits"

You seem to be asking, how do you refer to a single element of such a set?

We observe product is a mass noun which refers to a set of things. Bars of soap and liters of water use units to identify a discrete part of the mass nouns soap and water. Similarly, unit of product could be used to identify a single item to be sold, although it sounds overly formal and almost academic.

"Check that all the units of product are properly packaged."

"Each unit of product must be tested before going on the shelf."

"Count how many deluxe units of product are in stock."

Another option is to use notional agreement, a grammatical convention that allows a group noun to be used with a plural verb when the individuality of its parts is important. This type of construct sounds strange to me, but it is purportedly not as rare in British English.

"Check that all the product are properly packaged."

"Count how many deluxe product are in stock."

Going by ear, the second example ("Each of the product must be tested") is almost certainly wrong, although a real plural noun would work ("Each of the widgets must be tested"). Either notionally plural nouns are more limited than syntactically plural nouns, or my American ears are balking at something technically acceptable.

Although I hope we all enjoyed this brief look into mass nouns, I suggest you use item or unit in those sentences, or, if applicable, identify the thing being packaged, shelved, or stocked more specifically.

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I'd go with ware.

  • articles of merchandise or manufacture; goods:
  • any intangible items, as services or products of artistic or intellectual creativity, that are salable

(dictionary.com)

"Check that all the wares are properly packaged"

Of course, the definition of "ware" also suggests goods.

"Each good must be tested before going on the shelf"

"Count how many deluxe goods are in stock"

  • Shouldn't that be "wares"? – Simon B Aug 9 '17 at 21:48
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    Hi EightyEighty, can you add a source link for the definition you included? Attribution is very important here on ELU. :-) – Hellion Aug 9 '17 at 21:59
  • Whoops! Attribution added. And yes, "ware" can be singular. – EightyEighty Aug 9 '17 at 22:08

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