English Language Blog

The Vending Machine Vocabulary Posted by on Jul 6, 2018 in Culture, English Vocabulary

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com CCO

Ah, the vending machine! Let us sing the praises of this staple of the office lunchroom, lobby, or dining hall. They may dispense snacks, cold drinks, hot drinks, frozen food, healthy treats, sandwiches, or candy. In the United States, you will also find vending machines in hotels and motels, laundromats, schools, cinemas, hospitals and clinics, and in the waiting areas of many public businesses. The variety of products available in vending machines is enormous and will largely depend on the type of business in which the machine is located. The most common type of vending machine, however, is dedicated to snacks.

Let’s begin by taking a look at what you can expect to find in a typical snack vending machine in the US.


  • Snickers
  • Peanut M&M’s
  • Twix,
  • Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
  • Butterfinger
  • Milk Duds
  • Milky Way
  • Baby Ruth
  • Granola bars
  • Gum
  • Mints

Salty snacks

  • Doritos
  • Cheetos
  • Potato Chips (or crisps in the UK)
  • Popcorn (popped and salted, or unpopped to be used in a nearby microwave)
  • Peanuts
  • Corn Nuts
  • Trail Mix
  • Pretzels
  • Jerky


  • Honey Buns
  • Pop Tarts
  • Cheez-its
  • Cupcakes
  • Sno-Balls

Lunch and Breakfast products

  • Ramen noodles
  • Quaker oatmeal
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Soup

We can’t ignore the cold drinks vending machine, which is often found side-by-side with the snack machine.

Soda Pop & Drinks

  • Bottled water
  • Mountain Dew
  • Energy drinks
  • Pepsi
  • Coke
  • Sprite
  • Diet Coke
  • Diet Pepsi
  • Pepper
  • Fresca
  • Iced tea

You’ll notice that a lot of these items are specific brand names. In the US, people know these popular brands very well. In fact, brand loyalty can be so crucial to the consumer that companies supplying the vending machines have to be aware of which products are popular in a particular region. Sweet iced tea and Dr. Pepper will be big sellers in the deep south but may not be worth stocking in New England. The person who buys a Snickers may never touch a Milky Way, and vice-versa.

Vendors also consider the hours that a business is open. A company which operates shifts into the evening will likely carry more products which can be heated in a microwave or just need hot water added. This will serve the needs of a late shift which works through the dinner hour. You could also expect these businesses to provide plenty of hot coffee to their employees, although probably not from a vending machine. If you’ve ever ordered a hot drink from a vending machine, only to have the hot liquid pour out first, then watch helplessly as the cup arrives one second later, you know what I mean.

Finally, though, we should give some consideration to the hotel vending machines, because they provide some much-needed products that you’d never see in a lunchroom. Travelers often find themselves without essentials when they check into a hotel, especially late at night.

Hotel necessities

  • Condoms
  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste
  • Tampons
  • Feminine napkins
  • Toothbrushes
  • Plug adaptors
  • Phone chargers
  • Painkillers
  • Combs
  • Nail clippers
  • Earplugs
  • Antacids

Finally, I have to add that there are some very high-end, fancy vending machines which will offer truly unique and exotic products.

  • Lipstick and matching nail polish
  • Ballet flats
  • False eyelashes
  • Baby clothes
  • Swimwear
  • Pre-mixed cocktails
  • Craft beer
  • Fine wine

What’s in your ideal vending machine?

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About the Author: Gary Locke

Gary is a semi-professional hyphenate.


  1. Janet:

    There’s a new kind of vending machine that’s sprung up recently in train stations and airports carrying accessories for mobile devices – earbuds, charging cords, spare batteries, and the like.

    I think that really says something about the times we live in today!

    Now excuse me, I must go buy the last Snickers in the office vending machine…