What is the Difference Between a Jar and a Bottle?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Jars and bottles are distinguished by their openings. A jar has a wide mouth, typically of the same width of the jar or very close to it. A bottle, on the other hand, has a neck which is much narrower than the body of the bottle, with a lipped mouth to facilitate pouring without spilling. Both jars and bottles have a wide range of uses, and they have been around for centuries in their basic forms.

A water cooler bottle.
A water cooler bottle.

Bottles are used primarily to store liquids. They are not effective for solid storage because of the narrow neck, which makes it difficult to pour out the contents of the bottle, let alone get something inside. Thick liquids such as ketchup and other sauces may also be packaged in bottles, and there are a wide variety of bottle designs available, from bottles designed to keep their contents carbonated to bottles with traps for sediment. Bottles may be corked, stoppered, or sealed in other creative ways, like with a marble which pushes against a rubber gasket as long as the contents of the bottle stay carbonated.

A bottle has a neck much narrower than the body of the bottle, with a lipped mouth to facilitate pouring without spilling.
A bottle has a neck much narrower than the body of the bottle, with a lipped mouth to facilitate pouring without spilling.

A jar, on the other hand, can be used to store liquids or solids. Jars are classically cylindrical, although they may also be made in the form of squares and other shapes. Like bottles, jars can be sealed in a wide variety of ways, and their design allows people to either pour out the contents, or scoop them out, depending on personal taste and the contents of the jar. Jars are also easier to stack than bottles, as they classically have flat tops, taking up less space than bottles, which must be stacked in large racks.

The primary disadvantage of a bottle is its narrow neck, which makes it unsuitable for thick or chunky solids. A jar, on the other hand, is not ideally suited to liquids, because the wide neck makes it easy for the liquid to slop out. For drinking, many people prefer to use bottles, because jars can slop their contents onto the consumer when he or she tries to take a sip.

Historically, bottles and jars were made from porcelain and glass. Many cultures have a rich tradition of ornamental containers, some of which can be seen on display in museums. Today, materials like plastic may be used as well, with plastic bottles and jars being less prone to breakage. Metal, wood, and natural materials like gourds can also be fashioned into bottles and jars.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


OK, Then we use a jar of pills, and I buy jams and jellies in bottles.


Then would not a bucket then be classified as a jar or even a barrel?


@fingered - Have you ever seen those "jar recipes" online for various cookie or cake mixes? (Sort of like sand art with baking ingredients.) They make great home-made gifts, especially if you wrap them up nicely. It's simple enough and can be done with large reused glass jars.


@suntan12 - I like that you mentioned the presentation of products in relation to jars. They certainly do add a quaint appearance to just about any product. It's a shame that product containers are so casually mass-produced these days, whereas in the past, people actually put much thought in the aesthetics of those beautiful containers. Do you guys think so too?


@wavy58 - That's such a smart but simple idea! Large jars also make lovely old-fashioned containers for candy and other similar small items. Does anyone else have some interesting ideas for reusing jars?


Those canning jars that people use to store jelly and jam in make excellent piggy banks. I use four separate ones to store quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.

All I do is use a sharp tool to cut a slit in the top of the sealer lid. I make it just wide enough for a coin to fit through. I keep the lid lip screwed on tight. As I empty my husband’s pockets and my wallet of change every few days, I slip the coins into their separate containers.

Once the jars become full, my job of rolling the coins is easy, because I don’t have to sift through and separate dimes from pennies. It saves time and lets me know when I have enough coins to warrant a rolling session.


@kylee07drg - Empty bottles are great vases, but I need jars for my bouquets. I grow short flowers in clumps, and I need a wide neck to hold them together.

I take cuttings from rose moss, chrysanthemums, and dwarf sunflowers. I gather them in masses and plop them in a thick arrangement down the neck of a glass jar. Since the jelly jars that I collect are somewhat short, the flowers don’t fall down into the water and disappear.

The wide mouth of a jar lets the flowers extend outward over the edge. Jar bouquets look really full because of this. If I placed my short flowers in a bottle, they would be stuck in a vertical position and appear crowded and strained.


Empty glass soda bottles make excellent skinny neck vases for tall flowers. The necks are narrow enough to support long stems.

I usually cut zinnias or shasta daisies at various lengths and place them in an empty bottle. The slim neck holds the stems close together for a bouquet effect.

Most regular neck vases are just too open for just a few long flowers. They make the bouquet spread out so much that it looks sparse. I keep at least five empty bottles on hand to use as vases, so if I break one, I have a few to spare.


I like to buy homemade salad dressing from vendors at fresh produce markets. These dressings usually come in jars, unlike the ones you find in squeeze bottles at stores. Though you do have to scoop the contents out with a spoon, it is easier to get to than that last bit of dressing at the bottom of a bottle.

The jars are often decorated with bits of ribbon or labels made out of brown paper bag material, making the containers as unique as the dressings themselves. Because they are made of glass, I can soak them in soapy water when they are empty and reuse them as I choose.


@Comfyshoes -I like jars because I do find that it is difficult to get the remaining bits of jelly when I have the squeezable bottle. I also prefer jars when you are buying homemade jelly. We have an Amish farm nearby that sells homemade jelly in these jars and it is so delicious.

I also think that the jar adds to the old fashioned appeal of the jelly. Presentation is important and I don’t think that this jelly would be as popular if it were packaged in a bottle. It just doesn't have the same effect.


I think that a lot of products that used to only come in jars are now available in squeezable bottles. I really like that you now have a choice when you buy jelly or mayonnaise. Both are available in jars as well as squeezable bottles. The nice thing about the squeezable bottles is that you don’t need a knife to spread the condiment.

The bad thing is that when the bottle is down to the bottom it could be difficult to get the rest out, whereas with a jar you simply dip a knife in to get the remaining contents out.

I think both options work really well it just depends on what your preference is.

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