Why is it Called Freight?

posted in: Shipping 0

The logistics industry, just like any other industry, has its own terminology and jargon. The word freight is one such example. In logistics, freight refers by definition to any products or items that are transported in bulk by air, road, rail, or ship. Perhaps to better understand what freight is, it would be useful to look at the difference between freight and cargo, as well as what the distinction is between freight and shipping.

Why is it Called Freight?


Freight can be traced back to around the 1400s. Back then freight (“fraght “in Middle Dutch and “vracht/vretch” in Middle low German) meant the transporting of people and goods by water. The Danish called it “fragt” and the Swedes called it “frakt,” both originating from Dutch or Frisian. Then, we have “frete” in Low German and Portuguese. For the Spanish, there was “flete” and the French, “fret” which referred to the cargo of a ship in the 1500s. The name “freight train” emerged in the 1840s. Freight as a verb evolved as “fraught” in the mid-1500s. This meant “to load.” In the 1530s, fraught became freight, meaning to carry or transport. In modern times, we do not refer to the transporting of passengers as freight.

Freight and Cargo

At first glance, it would seem that freight and cargo are synonyms. Although they are used interchangeably, cargo refers more to transporting goods abroad, usually by airplane or ship. Freight applies more so to the transport of goods by truck or rail. Where the confusion comes in is that cargo can be referred to as freight when transported by any and all means of transport. Furthermore, cargo can be sent by freight, but freight isn’t sent by cargo. Freight can therefore be used as a noun and a verb. A further distinction is that freight is always a commercial load, while cargo isn’t necessarily always of commercial value. Cargo will however incur a freight charge. Consequently, some dictionary definitions define freight as the carrying of goods or cargo – the act of transporting them. Freight can also refer to a rate or charge for transport. Thus, cargo is the term used to describe the goods being transported. Freight can mean the goods being transported or the act of transporting them: Freight and cargo can both be freighted for a freighting fee. A ship carrying goods can be called a cargo ship or a freighter. When transported by rail, they are on a freight train. When placed on a plane the goods (freight or cargo) are known as airfreight.

Freight and Shipping

When transporting goods by ship, the actual goods are called freight (noun). The act of transporting the goods is known as shipping. Nowadays, the term shipping is applied to goods transported by most modes of transport including ship, rail, road, and air. When applying the word shipping, the cargo or freight is referred to as a shipment, regardless of the commercial value of the load. Unlike the nouns freight and cargo, a shipment isn’t necessarily a bulk load. Additional Reading: Freight Facts and Figures

The Junction LLC | Truckload Shipping

As a leader in the transportation industry, we demand excellence from our entire team. Our team at The Junction LLC strives to deliver the best possible customer service and by a desire to solve our customer’s toughest transportation and supply chain needs.

Our team is dedicated to serving our customers and will take the necessary action to deliver our customers’ products safely, efficiently, and on time. In fact, this is our promise to you!

Nationwide Services include:

Trucking & Freight Shipping Services:

  • Overweight,
  • Over-dimension
  • Time-sensitive shipments
  • LTL (Less-Than-Truckload)
  • FTL (Full Truckload)
  • Flatbed
  • Flatbed LTLRGN (removable gooseneck lowboy)
  • RGN (removable gooseneck lowboy)
  • Maxi’s / A-Train / B-Train
  • Heavy Haul
  • Over Dimensional
  • Dry Van
  • Dry Van LTL
  • Refrigerated
  • Refrigerated LTL
  • Power Only

Additional Services:

  • Our sister companies can also provide warehousing in our food-grade facilities, cross-docking, and contract warehousing.

Get a Free Freight Quote