Is There a Difference Between Parcels and Packages?

We’ve all heard either of these terms used to describe incoming or outgoing boxed or bound together mail (or post), the terms being either “packages” or “parcels.” But is there a difference between parcels and packages?

These two terms are often used synonymously, being interchanged with whichever word rolls off the tongue the fastest. However, these words do have subtle differences and are used differently geographically. 

Different Terms Favored Over Others Regionally

Overall, postage handlers in the EU often refer to these articles as parcels rather than packages. In the United States, carriers often default to using the word packages. The general population of either region tends to follow suit, not considering that there may be definitive differences between the two. 

Generalizations aside, smaller percentages of people in each region recognize the differences, albeit subtle, and refer to a package as a package and a parcel as a parcel. 

The Differences Between Package vs. Parcel


In the United States, parcels are commonly considered smaller mail pieces wrapped for shipping. This doesn’t necessarily mean an item packed into a separate box, but more likely wrapped in shipping paper as an outer protective and concealing layer. The definition is similar in the UK, but there is also the addition of a sense of uniformity or order to the parcels, similar sizes, easily stacked for transit, etc.


The word “package” is used loosely and coincidently to describe less easy-to-define shapes and sizes of whatever is being shipped. Also, if a parcel is packed into a box for shipping purposes, it becomes a package. 


An item that comes pre-boxed, like, say, a toaster, when shipped with a paper covering, could be referred to as a parcel. Take that same pre-boxed toaster and place it in a cardboard shipping box for added protection; it becomes a package. 

A bunch of paper-wrapped boxes of chocolate-covered cherries is easily stackable and manageable, making them parcels. But a bicycle shipped in a box is large, not easily manageable, and may be awkward to stack amongst other items; this would be referred to as a package. 

Mail or Post

Mail and post are another couple of terms used flippantly and are favored differently from region to region, similar to how one uses parcels and the other favors packages. Overall, people in the United States go to the post office to get their mail, while people overseas go to their General Post Office to pick up their post.

Final Thoughts

In a way, it’s strange how similar items can be called completely different things within countries that speak the same language. The more you look into the different terms being used just in the carrier industries between the UK and the US, the more you’ll find the same handful of words being used either differently or interchangeably. 

That being said, there are literal differences between packages and parcels. The problem is, not too many people know or acknowledge the differences and use whichever word feels right at the time.

GSParcel Staff (56)

GS Parcel is a registered reseller and installer of Luxer One parcel lockers, parcel rooms, asset management systems, and refrigerated lockers. Luxer One is revolutionizing the parcel locker industry and their self-serve, contactless pickup, and drop-off solutions are second to none. From the hardware to the software to the internal electronics, their lockers are designed in-house. They’ve built high-quality products that you can trust.

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