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A bit earlier in the chat room I mentioned that I needed to buy a new jar of coffee, but that I didn't know how to express that in Spanish.

I want to know a good Spanish word for "jar" in the sense of a glass container with a lid that is opened and closed by a twisting action.

jar of coffee The original jar of instant coffee that inspired the question

more jars Some more jars I found about the place, as an added bonus they all have label in exotic languages: Armenian, Georgian,

There seems to be a Spanish cognate of "jar" in "jarro" but to me that doesn't have the sense of "jar" that I'm looking for, though it might for some of the other senses of "jar" (senses I never use in Australian English at any rate).

Other words that came all seemed wrong in one way or another:

  • "tarro" to me is a glass beer mug in Mexico
  • "lata" to me is a metallic can or tin
  • "envase" is probably OK but it feels more generic like "packaging"
  • "bote" I think I've only come across meaning something more like "basket" but it's not really in my vocabulary

Is any one of these words the most accurate, or is there a word we overlooked, or will it vary from region to region?

There is a Wikipedia page on jars, but it does not link to a Spanish equivalent.

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I agree that tarro cafe would be coffee mug. Bote de cafe may work, since bote de mermelada means, roughly, "jelly jar"-- but the "boat of jelly" makes me take pause. Interesting question! +1 –  Richard Nov 22 '11 at 17:54
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You shouldn't be buying your coffee in a jar in the first place. The good coffee always comes in a bag. :) –  Flimzy Nov 22 '11 at 19:06
    
Yeah where I am now getting real coffee is actually easy. But we don't have a coffee machine and I'm too lazy to make it in a jezve, which I would only mess up anyway. –  hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 19:13
    
I wouldn't add nothing unless it's necessary. –  razpeitia Nov 23 '11 at 4:11
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@Richard: note that <algo> café means "brown <something>", so "tarro café" is "brown jar". You have to say "tarro de café" for "coffee jar". –  Janoma Feb 11 '12 at 3:08
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4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It actually depends on the region in which you are. As Omar said, frasco is quite understandable by all means with a proper context, but without it it can be interpreted differently.

As the RAE definition states, frasco is mainly a glass made of some material, it can be glass, porcelain or whatever (Glass and porcelain are the most common interpretations for the word.

RAE:

Frasco.

(Del germ. *flaskô, funda de mimbres para una botella, botella; cf. a. al. ant. flasca, nórd. flaska).

  1. m. Vaso de cuello recogido, hecho de vidrio u otra materia, que sirve para contener líquidos, sustancias en polvo, comprimidos, etc.

  2. m. Vaso hecho regularmente de cuerno, en que se llevaba la pólvora para cargar la escopeta.

  3. m. Contenido de un frasco.

~ cuentagotas.

  1. m. frasco que por la forma de su gollete y de su tapón sirve para verter gota a gota su contenido.

~ de mercurio.

  1. m. Peso de tres arrobas de mercurio, que es la cabida de los antiguos frascos de hierro usados como envase en Almadén, en España.

Now about regionalisms these are the ones I personally know. I am a native Colombian

Colombia

Tarro and Frasco are equally used and have a wide variety of meaning according to context. Usually glass, porcelain or metal.

We also use Jarrón, but this is a bit different, usually used for flowers, or for more heavy things, bigger things. Usually made of porcelain, but can be of glass as well; not metal.

Bote can also be used, but bote is more made of plastic and much bigger. Bigger than Jarrón even. Although depending on context can also be interpreted as the same size, but not the same material.

Chile | Argentina

Tarro is more understood as metal. Frasco would be the proper usage as it is understood as made from glass.

Ecuador

Tarro is widely used for a receptacle made of glass. Frasco is rarely used to say it, not to say awkward when used.

Spain

Tarro is more used than frasco, as tarro is interpreted as being made from glass. And usually (in Spain) the cofee is in glass, or metal containers (depends on region, in Colombia most are of metal or in plastic bags.)

Panama

Tarro and frasco are used, sometimes envase but it really is dependent on context, as for an industrial use, or using a frasco de café vacío for something else.

Mexico

Tarro is more interpreted as a pint or glass of beer, or some other drink. Frasco is more interpreted for this use. Bote is seldom used for this context.

Central America

Bote can be understood for coffee more widely than in other regions. Nevertheless frasco is used as well.

Now, envase is more literal to container and more general. Lata is almost always made of metal (I don't know how it is interpreted in Equatorial guinea or the Philippines, but I think it's safe to assume they interpret it the same way as us Latin Americans)

Bote really depends on the region, as said in Central America it is more used than in other regions.

To make a safe bet use frasco or tarro. Frasco for a small recipient or container, and tarro for a bigger one specially if it is made of metal. Frasco is more glass, and tarro more metal.

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You can add "Argentina" to your "Chile" entry, we coincide in that. "Bote" is definitely not used here in that sense. –  leonbloy Nov 23 '11 at 15:26
    
@leonbloy: thanks man! –  Joze Nov 24 '11 at 6:39
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In addition lata in Filipino/Tagalog directly corresponds to "metal cans" as in "canned goods" while bote is for glass bottles. –  Eduardo Jan 3 at 17:18
    
I've heard that usage in Spain and Latin America as well, Eduardo. –  wordsmythe Jul 2 at 17:01
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In Texas I hear "frasco" mostly for this type of container. "Lata," to my knowledge, is always made of some type of metal.

One can put almost anything inside a "frasco."

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In Spain, a tarro is almost always made of glass. In my opinion, is the best word (again, in Spain), to refer to "a glass container with a lid that is opened and closed by a twisting action".

Frasco is usually a small tarro, but can be made of other material. Also, the double r in tarro provides a sense of strong and durability (and lots of tarros has a thick glass). Frasco is usually more delicate and elegant (that's why perfumes comes in frascos, despite they are made of glass and follow your initial definition).

Lata is always made of metal. The only exceptions are items that have been common and made of metal for years but recently there are plastic versions (lata de gasolina comes to my mind).

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The proper Spanish term for a jar would be a frasco, like in:

Voy a comprar un frasco de café.

Depending on the region, bote de café could be acceptable.

RAE reference to 'frasco'

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This seems good. I didn't know this word from Mexico and my Larousse Gran Diccionario translates it as bottle but Google Image Search does indeed return lots of glass jar pictures. –  hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 18:50
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Also "tarro" ("frasco" synonym) –  jmfsg Nov 22 '11 at 19:07
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@JuanManuel: but "tarro", at least here in Chile, means a can, or something like a metal jar, but always made out of some sort of metal. –  Nicolás Nov 22 '11 at 22:16
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frasco means flask –  Luis Carlos Nov 22 '11 at 23:57
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@Nicólas A tarro in Spain is usually made of glass. If you see the definition of Tarro at RAE website it says it's made of glass or porcelain. –  Javi Nov 23 '11 at 8:24
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