Imagine you have a salve, perhaps a vapor rub or a hand cream. It comes in a small, circular (or to be more accurate, cylindrical) metal container.

Typically, I would say:

I have a "tin" of that vapor rub if you want some.

However, I'm writing a fantasy story where they would never dream of wasting metal on such a frivolous pursuit - rather, they use glass because sand is everywhere.

I've looked in a thesaurus but all I'm finding are things like container and dish. Dish might make sense but I don't think of dish as having a closing lid. It's too short to be a jar.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist May 17 '20 at 18:15

I make salves, so I often buy containers online. Most websites call a short jar a "squat jar." It usually has a wide mouth in comparison to its height. Here's a picture of one in an online shop.

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    I'm sure you are right, but this sounds like a trade term to me. I would not expect to hear it in everyday life. – TonyK Mar 26 '20 at 22:04
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    In everyday life, I'd simply call it a jar – Dave Costa Mar 27 '20 at 14:21
  • Links are ephemeral; please post the image directly here. – smci Mar 28 '20 at 9:14

There is no height limit on a jar. I have several in my fridge that are less than an inch high and some are several inches wide.

It is perfectly fine to call a small container made of glass or ceramic a jar.

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    +1 for jar. Search amazon or another retailer for maple butter, and you'll find many in very short jars that include phrases in their descriptions such as "Be careful—you might be tempted to eat the whole jar with a spoon". – xorsyst Mar 25 '20 at 13:46
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    I feel sure that in Britain we would call them "pots". Though a bigger one containing jam, or pickled onions, we would call a "jar". What do yours contain? – WS2 Mar 25 '20 at 14:15
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    "Pot" is also the word that I would use for the small container like salve or lip balm, and I am from the US. – Meg Mar 25 '20 at 14:55
  • When describing the object for the first time, you could call it a shallow jar, or something like that. To me that would get across the image you described. – user91988 Mar 25 '20 at 15:56
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    Interesting, I would never call something smaller than a liter or so a "pot." – Azor Ahai -him- Mar 26 '20 at 15:52

Another word for such a container is a tub.

  • AmE speaker here; this is the first word that came to mind. – A N Mar 25 '20 at 13:36
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    This is quite interesting - I don't think anything made of glass in the UK would be termed a "tub". To me, a "tub" is a plastic container e.g. a tub of yoghourt. Made of glass it is a pot or a jar. – WS2 Mar 25 '20 at 14:18
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    @WS2 Good point. (As a UK native myself, I should have considered that!) Though glass is mentioned in the question only as an example; it could equally be made of some type of plastic, or waxed cardboard, or rubber, or similar — and I think we'd both be happy with ‘tub’ for those. – gidds Mar 25 '20 at 14:24
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    "tub", to me, implies the width is greater than the height. – Acccumulation Mar 26 '20 at 3:25
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    @MaxW If you read the question carefully to the end, you will see they are talking of a glass container. A "tub" to me, originally of wood, is nowadays applied to some plastic containers. A metal container would almost definitely be "a tin". – WS2 Mar 26 '20 at 13:44

The first thing that comes to my mind is a vial.

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    Vial is a narrow-necked container and mainly used for liquids. It is not good for salves, creams. – 0.. Mar 25 '20 at 18:53

The possibly-appropriate word vial has already been suggested, but I think phial, "glass vessel or bottle, especially a small bottle for medicines", is a better choice for fantasy fiction. Also consider ampoule, flask, and cuvette, "a small vessel with at least two flat and transparent sides".

Also note a number of related words that appear in a passage in Chapter 9 of The Nursing Home Murders by Ngaio Marsh:

"...Now I understand that the jar, bottle, or pot containing the serum—"

"It was an ampoule," said Jane.

"So it was—and the pipkin, cruse, or pottle containing hyoscine were on the table. ..."

From en.wiktionary, jar in sense 2 means "A small, approximately cylindrical container, normally made of clay or glass, for holding fruit, preserves, etc., or for ornamental purposes. ... Synonyms: cruse, pot".

From en.wiktionary, bottle means "A container, typically made of glass or plastic and having a tapered neck, used primarily for holding liquids". [Many bottles have straight rather than tapered sides. Certain metal containers are referred to as water bottles, fuel bottles, etc.]

From en.wiktionary, pipkin means "A small earthen pot".

From en.wiktionary, cruse means "A small jar used to hold liquid, such as oil or water".

Per en.wiktionary, pottle means "A small pot or other receptacle, e.g. for strawberries".

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    Same word, slightly different route into present-day spelling :) – Will Crawford Mar 28 '20 at 11:26

A dram might work - generally refers to a specific quantity, but it has its origins in pharmaceutical products, and was a common size small jar for selling medicine or other similar products.


A tin doesn't necessarily have to have a lid, so I would call a container as you describe it "a glass".

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    For me (British English) a "glass" is an open-topped vessel to hold a drink, not a container for a cream. Agree with other answers suggesting "pot" or "jar". Less keen on the word "tub" because that often suggests a large container. – AdrianHHH Mar 25 '20 at 13:54
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    @AdrianHHH Also true Canadian English, and I think it's true of US English as well. – DJClayworth Mar 25 '20 at 14:10
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    @AdrianHHH I was thinking that in a fantasy setting where glass was used like metal is used in the real world, the word "glass" might easily come to encompass both meanings. Also, if one were to take a glass and put cream inside it, it would still be a glass. – Aaron F Mar 25 '20 at 15:38
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    @DJClayworth: Yes, true of US English, at least in my experience. – jamesqf Mar 25 '20 at 16:27
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    @AdrianHHH "jar" had already been given as an answer :-) I'll stand by my choice of "glass" as I feel it makes sense in the context of the question. If "fantasy story" hadn't been specified in the question then I wouldn't have posited this as an answer. – Aaron F Mar 25 '20 at 20:52

Have a look at The Free Dictionary's thesaurus here.

If you scroll down you will find a listing provided by wordnet that looks like this:

WordNet listings


Where I come from, it's a bottle if it's narrow and a jar if it's wide.

For your purposes, I also like the above suggestion vial.

A glass is something you drink out of, a pot is big and usually for cooking, and a tub is even bigger and usually for washing. They're great words, but I don't think they're what you want.

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