I am looking for a term that refers to both living beings and non-living objects in a legal context. Can I use goods, commodities, or items?

I believe 'items' may work in this context since some animals are included as follows:

Examples of restricted items include firearms, certain fruits and vegetables, animal products, animal by products, and some animals. Prohibited and Restricted Items

I also find commodities cover livestock:

The United States Commodity Exchange Act, which regulates commodity futures trading, defines commodities as "wheat, cotton, rice, corn, oats, barley, rye, flaxseed, grain sorghums, mill feeds, butter, eggs, Solanum tuberosum (Irish potatoes), wool, wool tops, fats and oils (including lard, tallow, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, and all other fats and oils), cottonseed meal, cottonseed, peanuts, soybeans, soybean meal, livestock, livestock products, and frozen concentrated orange juice, and all other goods and articles, except onions (as provided by section 13–1 of this title) and motion picture box office receipts (or any index, measure, value, or data related to such receipts), and all services, rights, and interests (except motion picture box office receipts, or any index, measure, value or data related to such receipts) in which contracts for future delivery are presently or in the future dealt in.Commodity status of animals

But, how about 'goods'? Can I use goods too? Despite checking several dictionaries, I am not sure.

  • 1
    Depends on the context. If they're being carried or transported you could use cargo; if they're being sold, goods or goods for sale work well. Are they donated, inherited, or something else?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 11 at 5:29
  • @StuartF They’re carried on the airplane, so cargo would work. Thank you. Commented Jan 11 at 13:44

1 Answer 1


Short answer: Yes.

Economists often use the phrase goods and services to describe things that are bought and sold, with “goods” usually being physical items (e.g., foodstuffs or machines) and “services” being acts of labor (e.g., a barber giving a haircut, or a maid cleaning a bathtub). Some transactions involve both goods and services, such as buying a meal at a restaurant, in which you're paying for both the food and drink (goods) and a waiter's labor in taking your order, delivering the food, clearing the table, etc. (services). Or getting a car repaired at a mechanic's shop, where the “goods and services” distinction is more commonly called “parts and labor”.

So in an economic context, then yes, livestock are “goods”, provided that you're buying, selling, or owning the animals themselves, as opposed to renting the animals' services as beasts of burden (e.g., selling horse rides, rather than the horses themselves).

The term commodity can also refer to livestock, but has a narrower meaning that “the market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them.” So, if you're giving any special significance to a specific animal (e.g., it's a family pet), then it's not a “commodity”.

Item is an extremely generic term, similar to object or thing. Some more formal very-generic terms are article and entity.

If you want to focus on the fact that your “goods” are legally owned by a particular person or organization, then some terms you can use are:

  • asset(s)
  • belonging(s)
  • chattel (may have an unwanted connotation of slavery)
  • possession(s)
  • property (often used for land or real estate, but can also refer to movable items)

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