AskDefine | Define carton

Dictionary Definition



1 the quantity contained in a carton [syn: cartonful]
2 a box made of cardboard; opens by flaps on top

User Contributed Dictionary

see box




From carton.


  1. An inexpensive, disposable box-like creation fashioned from either paper, paper with wax-covering (wax paper), or other lightweight material. It is designed to hold things for a short period of time and be discarded or recycled after use.




  • lang=fr|/kaʁ.tɔ̃/
  • SAMPA: /kaR.tO~/


From cartone.


fr-noun m

Extensive Definition

Carton is the name of certain types of containers typically made from paperboard which is also sometimes known as "cardboard". Many types of cartons are used in packaging. Sometimes a carton is also called a box.

Types of cartons

Folding Cartons

A carton is a type of packaging suitable for food, pharmaceuticals, hardware, and many other types of products.
Folding cartons are usually combined into a tube at the manufacturer and shipped flat (knocked down) to the packager.
Tray styles have a solid bottom and are often shipped as flat blanks and assembled by the packager. Some also are self-erecting.
High speed equipment is available to set-up, load, and close the cartons.

Egg Carton

Egg cartons or trays are designed to protect whole eggs while in transit.
Traditionally these have been made of molded pulp. This uses recycled newsprint which is molded into a shape which protects the eggs.
More recently egg cartons have also be made from expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) and PET.

Aseptic carton

Cartons for liquids can be fabricated from laminates of paperboard, foil, and polyethylene. Most are based on either Tetra Pak or Combibloc systems.
One option is to have the printed laminate supplied on a roll. The carton is cut, scorred, and formed at the packager.
A second option is to have the pre-assembled tubes delivered to the packager for completion and filling.
These are suited for aseptic processing and are used for milk, soup, juice, etc.

Gable top

Gable top cartons are often used for liquid products such as milk, juice, etc. These used polyethylene-coated paperboard and sometimes a foil laminate.
Most are opened by pushing open the gables at the top. Some have fitments to assist in opening and pouring the contents.

Packaging history

An early American packaging industry pioneer was the Kieckhefer Container Company, which was run by John W. Kieckhefer. The company excelled in the use of fibre shipping containers, which especially included the paper milk carton. In 1957, through an exchange of stock, the Kieckhefer Conatiner Co. holdings were merged with the Weyerhauser Timber Company of Tacoma, Washington.


Although quite often shaped like a cuboid, it is not uncommon to find cartons lacking right angles and straight edges, as in squrounds used for ice cream. The number of corners on any given carton is a function of the product it contains. For example, a product with eight vertices would require a box also with eight corners.
Tetrahedrons and other shapes are available. Cartons with a hexagonal or octagonal cross sections are sometimes used for specialty items.


Cartons can be made from many materials: paperboard, various plastics, or a composite. Some are "food grade" for direct contact with foods.
Many cartons are made out of a single piece of paperboard. Depending on the need, this paperboard can be waxed or coated with polyethylene to form a moisture barrier. This may serve to contain a liquid product or keep a powder dry.

Artistic design

In art history, the carton (pronounced the French way) was a drawing on ordinary cardboard, used as life-size design for the manufacture in an atelier of a valuable tapestry, such as a gobelin. During the weaving it hung behind the tapestry in the making, a time-consuming process thus in a creative sense simplified to 'mechanical' painting-by-numbers.
As these were extremely valuable, often commanded by the very richest art-buyers, including princes who hung them in their palaces and even took them on their travels as prestigious displays of wealth, often with a visual message, especially the world-famous Flemish ateliers were deemed worthy to have cartons made by some of the greatest graphic artists of the time, including such celebrated painters as Rubens.


Carton-pierre, French for 'stone carton', is a term used for papier mâché decorated to resemble stone, wood, or metal, and used as ornamentation.


  • Brody, A. L., and Marsh, K, S., "Encyclopedia of Packaging Technology", John Wiley & Sons, 1997, ISBN 0-471-06397-5
carton in German: Karton
carton in Japanese: ミルクカートン

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ammunition box, ark, attache case, bag, bandolier, barrel, basket, billfold, bin, boot, bottle, box, box up, briefcase, bunker, caisson, can, canister, capsula, capsule, cardcase, case, cask, casket, cedar chest, chest, cigarette case, cist, coffer, coffin, compact, cone, crate, crib, dispatch box, encase, encyst, envelope, etui, file, file folder, filing box, folio, hamper, holster, hope chest, housewife, hussy, hutch, jar, kit, letter file, monstrance, ostensorium, pack, package, packet, packing case, parcel, pillbox, pod, portfolio, pot, powder box, quiver, rack, reliquary, sack, sarcophagus, scabbard, sheath, skippet, snuffbox, socket, spectacle case, tank, tea chest, till, tin, tinderbox, vanity case, vasculum, wallet
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