There are several questions, particularly on Super User, which refer to the use of these drives but there isn't a standard term in use nor a standard tag. Though SU has 'thumb drive', it is not consistently used.

Would there be any advantage to having a standard tag to ease searches?

Taking the initial responses into account the preferred terms (in order of usefulness) seem to be

  • 6
    The correct term is flash drive, however many people insist on calling them by names with varying degrees of nonsense. I am also noticing the spread of this issue based on the fact that you didn't even include that in your question...
    – Ian Elliott
    Commented Jul 24, 2009 at 12:57
  • 7
    I always carry a 360kb 5 1/4 inch floppy in my pocket. I don't need your young kid's toys.
    – balpha
    Commented Jul 24, 2009 at 14:44
  • @Ian Elliott - whilst flash drive is correct it has perhaps become somewhat ambiguous with the advent of 'SSDs' as the difference can be in form factor rather than mechanism.
    – mas
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 at 14:33
  • 1
    Should this be tagged [retag-request]?
    – Brad Gilbert
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 at 14:57
  • You forgot finger.
    – paradd0x
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 19:09
  • 1
    technically SD cards and others are also flash memory so unfortunately 'flash drive' cannot be right although it would be elegant. also 'usb-storage' or 'usb-drive' can't be right because there are hard disks, card readers, cd/dvd drives etc that connect with USB. I vote for 'usb-stick'. Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 14:14
  • Our software supports two dozen (and counting) languages and runs on machines sitting in a factory. A user plugs in their USB flash drive and saves a report or backs up settings. We use the highly generic term USB because translation issues with flash and stick are fraught with complications! No-one complains because in our context the meaning of USB is unambiguous.
    – AlainD
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 10:34

7 Answers 7


I'd go with usb-flash-drive. On Wikipedia, all of the terms you suggested redirect there.

  • +1 I agree, stick/thumb/pen/finger are too specific and just drive could refer to an external hard drive which has it's own tag. Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 13:52
  • Flash drive or USB flash drive are probably best but it is context-dependant. You may need to consider translation into dozens of languages (if you write software or user manuals) when an imprecise term like USB may be acceptable, provided it is unambiguous in the context used.
    – AlainD
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 10:31

Wikipeida redirects all to "USB flash drive"

USB stick
Thumb drive
Pen drive

I think we should use that. It's the most descriptive and least ambiguous.


I'd go for usb-storage - this doesn't differentiate between pen drives and USB hard drives, admittedly. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not. (Things like plugging your phone into your computer are a third category, I guess...)


Thumb drive is always the one that sticks in my mind because it is what I use personally, but I think what Jon said concerning usb-storage is probably the best because it is more generic and can encompass all the others which seem to be describing the style more than the function.


Also, it depends on the place of the world you are in. Down here in Argentina, only the most technical people will refer to them as anything other than "pendrives", and only when talking online. Pendrive has become as something of a standard here.

  • them as anything other than
    – Brad Gilbert
    Commented Jul 25, 2009 at 14:57

I don't think "USB-storage" sounds right... yet I do think that it definitely should have both "USB" and 'storage".

Hows "USB Storage Device"?

And for USB external HDDs, hows "USB Mass Storage Device"?


As per the recommendations, I believe we should use as the global term. Currently, there are a lot more questions just tagged , most of which deal specifically with a USB flash-drive.

I have begun to re-tag some of these questions as usb-flash-drive (instead of just flash-drive). Originally, I just wanted to make flash-drive a synonym of usb-flash-drive, but wanted people's opinion on if that should even be made a synonym first. I mean, flash-drive could refer to solid-state drives, but that is rarely (if at all) what users use the tag for. Going through some, I have seen cases where people put flash drive instead of , but have been changing them to SSD so far.


  • It'd probably be better to write a new Q with a retag request on that. I don't see anything wrong with mass-retagging those, if there is no ambiguity within [flash-drive].
    – slhck
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 13:51
  • If you deal with the dozen or so cases where it's a mess/unclear, a mod can merge the rest
    – random Mod
    Commented Aug 11, 2011 at 14:18

You must log in to answer this question.