What is adhesive tape (or "Scotch" tape) that is used for packaging things is usually called in the United States? What verb do you usually use for "package something with packaging tape"? Maybe "to scotch something"?

Scotch tape


This is called packaging tape, or packing tape. The verb used would usually be simply to tape. If the speaker wanted to be more specific, he could say "I taped the box shut with packaging tape".

"Scotch tape" is generally used in the United States for a much lighter variety of tape that is mostly suitable only for taping papers, and wouldn't be used for something like boxes. This is despite the fact that Scotch is a brand name of tape, and could include numerous tape products.

From Wikipedia, this is what Americans generally call "Scotch tape" (and what they would think of if they heard "Scotch tape"):

Wikipedia image

I should note that in American use, it might not always be capitalized and could very well appear as "scotch tape". I've even see "scotch-tape".

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    Whereas in the UK, the generic name (also actually a brand-name) is "Sellotape". – Colin Fine May 30 '12 at 23:28
  • It is Sellotape in India as well. – Bravo May 31 '12 at 3:23
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    @PeterShor As opposed to tape that isn't sticky? I always called that "a useless strip of plastic". Funny how when you use an idiom all the time, you don't notice oddities about the literal meanings of the components. It gives me an appreciation for how tough things can be on foreigners. – Jay May 31 '12 at 22:07
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    @Jay: there used to be tape that you had to wet in order for it to stick. I haven't seen this kind for ages and ages, but I suspect that this might be the origin of sticky tape. – Peter Shor May 31 '12 at 22:14
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    @Jay: There are countless other types of tape. Magnetic tape, perforated tape, whiteout tape, and so on. If you're in an audio recording studio, asking for "a tape" is unlikely to yield you a sticky tape. – SF. Jun 1 '12 at 7:39

In the U.S. "Scotch" is a brand name of tape, manufactured by the company 3M. The Scotch brand is so prevalent in the U.S. that Scotch tape has become a genericized trademark.

As Jim said, when hearing the term "Scotch tape," most Americans will conjure an image like this in their minds:

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However, 3M makes other kinds of packing tapes (sometimes called strapping tape as well, particularly when it's reinforced), also under the Scotch brand name:

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Here's a screen shot from the 3M website (note the consistent use of the word Scotch for 3M tapes, and the several variants of packaging tapes available):

enter image description here

That's all I've got – I think that's a wrap.

  • And I bet that no one, other than employees of 3M, ever refer to Scotch brand packing tape as "Scotch tape". – Jay May 31 '12 at 22:09

I know OP asked about the US, but in the UK we call this stuff parcel tape... enter image description here

...and this is how our eBay "winnings" arrive wrapped up in it...

enter image description here

Anyway, that's enough pictures. The more lightweight stuff OP calls Scotch tape is usually called sellotape in the UK. That's just another brand name - the actual 3M Scotch brand is probably more common, but we stick to sellotape for the generic name (as with hoover and biro, no-one cares that your particular hoover is made by Electrolux, or your biro by Bic).

  • I appreciate knowing what it's called in the U.K. - thanks! – J.R. May 31 '12 at 1:49
  • Here in the US, the Coca-Cola company fights very hard to prevent people from using "coke" as a generic word for soft drinks made from cola nuts. They've brought lawsuits against restaurants that bring someone a Pepsi product when the person ordered a Coke, so that it's now pretty routine that if you order "Coke" in a restaurant and they don't serve Coca-Cola products, the waitress will say, "Is Pepsi ok?" – Jay May 31 '12 at 22:13
  • @Jay: Here in the UK people don't take a lot of notice of big companies telling us what words we can and can't use. As for the kind of lawsuit you describe - never say never, but I just can't see that happening in the UK. If you go into a white goods shop and say you're looking to buy a hoover, you don't expect to be subpoenaed as a witness for a court case if they show you one made by Dyson/Electrolux/whatever. – FumbleFingers May 31 '12 at 23:11
  • @FumbleFingers America may no longer lead the world in science and engineering, but we're still number one in lawyers! – Jay Jun 1 '12 at 19:40
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    Someone downvoted your answer with no explanation? How unconstructive. You did clearly say "in the UK we call this ...", which seems to make it clear that you were talking about British English and not real English. :-) – Jay Jun 4 '12 at 17:00

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