We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What does "Precious Cargo" Mean?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Precious means dear, important, valuable or irreplaceable, and cargo is the items carried in various containers like ships, trucks and cars. Together the idiom precious cargo has come to mean very dear things that are being carried or moved, and usually refers specifically to children. The sign "baby on board" that appears on many cars is another way of saying the car carries precious cargo.

The term has been used for many other things that have nothing to do with infants or children. There’s even a 2002 Star Trek: Enterprise episode called Precious Cargo which has to do with the Enterprise transporting an ill-mannered but beautiful woman, played by the famous actress and television host, Padma Lakshmi. There are a number of references to the idiom that predate this, and the cargo that is precious may be defined in numerous ways. Anything carried or in the midst of being transported that is of value could fall under this description.

Sometimes when women are pregnant, they also refer to themselves as carrying precious cargo. Being pregnant means acting as a container and transporter for a fetus until birth. It’s more used in a joking way in this sense, and some women may be sensitive to any comparison to large carrying mechanisms like a cargo ship. However, the term, in this sense, is used pretty frequently, as evidenced by the number of maternity stores that bear the name Precious Cargo and are devoted to selling clothing.

There are also many stores that sell items for kids and babies with this name. They may specialize in the types of things that carry and hold kids, like strollers, car seats and the like. It appears that precious cargo has a fairly loose definition that can be adapted for a number of uses, most of them having to do with children.

People may wonder why it is that parents would want to openly signal that they have children present in their car with “baby on board” signs. Probably some parents find these signs important and hope that other drivers seeing them will drive more carefully around them. It’s a reminder to other drivers that there is a child in a car close by, and a request for drivers to be safe around the precious cargo on the road. It’s hard to say whether such a sign works, since auto deaths are still one of the leading causes of infant and child mortality.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Sara007 — On Sep 07, 2011

When I was shopping for my kids' strollers I actually decided to choose the ones that stated, "for precious cargo only". I really thought that was a cute pitch because it shows that the company really knows how most parents feel about their children.

One of the things I have noticed though is that it seems that more and more companies are adopting the precious cargo phrase into their marketing. I see clothing and toys with precious cargo on them all the time. Sometimes, it just doesn't really make sense. It seems like with anything, companies have taken a good idea and gone overboard with it.

By wander — On Sep 06, 2011

Whenever I think of precious cargo I really take it in the literal sense. I am always shipping things home when I travel abroad and occasionally I will splurge and buy an irreplaceable piece of art. While I hate to part with it, it just isn't realistic to carry the art I buy with me from country to country.

Most countries allow you to mark your packages as fragile, but I also like to write precious cargo on the box just as a reminder. I have seen too many boxes just tossed around at post offices to not want to emphasize safe handling of my goods. It also helps if you can write the phrase in the language of the country you're in.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 05, 2011

A local veterinary clinic has a van designated as an animal ambulance. The name of the clinic is painted on its side, along with the words “precious cargo.”

The van usually goes out and gets animals that have been hit by cars and refuse to let their owners pick them up and carry them, since injured animals can be aggressive. It also goes out to help owners who are too disabled or weak to pick up their heavy animals and bring them in to the clinic.

The words “precious cargo” are surrounded by paintings of sweet little puppies and kittens. Those who love animals will pull over and let this van pass them.

By snickerish — On Sep 05, 2011

I work at a special needs school, so when they are dropped off each morning by the school bus, our school staff always tries to thank each bus driving for taking care of our precious cargo that was on their bus.

I think we kind of use our show of appreciation, like the article talked about how people use the sign "baby on board" and hope that people are more careful driving around them. We hope that the bus drivers will always remember that they have precious cargo, so they will take care on the road.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 04, 2011

I live near the ocean, and while I’m at work, my daughter stays on a ship called Precious Cargo Daycare. It’s a great idea, because it keeps the kids entertained.

The daycare stays in the bay, so I don’t have to worry about giant waves knocking the ship over during a storm. It goes out on the water, and kids can see dolphins jumping and seagulls diving.

The daycare is for children five and under. The ship has very secure guard rails that make it impossible for a kid to slip off the deck. Other vessels are very careful when approaching this ship, because they can see the “Precious Cargo Daycare” logo painted on both sides.

By cloudel — On Sep 03, 2011

My husband and his family tease each other mercilessly. They don’t get their feelings hurt very easily, so my brother-in-law knew that the birthday gift he had gotten for my husband would do no harm.

My husband is quite overweight. He has a protruding gut that makes him resemble a pregnant woman. So, his brother bought him a t-shirt that says “Precious Cargo” on the front.

What makes it even funnier is that the shirt clings to his belly, so it really does look like he’s pregnant. People might be fooled until they see his beard and mustache. He wears it when we go shopping, and people always giggle.

By Perdido — On Sep 03, 2011

My neighbor’s baby was kidnapped from a car with a “precious cargo” sticker on the back windshield. The woman who took the baby later confessed to having taken several babies, and she told police that she looked for signs like these when searching for babies to take.

My neighbor had buckled her baby into her carseat and went back in the house to grab her purse. She was gone just a few seconds, but that was long enough for her baby to be kidnapped.

She has since removed the sign from her car. She tells anyone she meets with the same sign on their vehicle about her story.

By LisaLou — On Sep 02, 2011

When my niece was pregnant I gave her a Precious Cargo diaper bag. I knew her husband would be just as involved with the baby and didn't want something that was feminine or frilly.

This was a perfect diaper bag because it was neutral colored and worked for either a boy or girl. My niece's husband didn't have any issues about carrying this diaper bag around.

Another feature they really liked about it was it was very roomy and also included a folding changing pad inside the bag.

By sunshined — On Sep 02, 2011

When I was given a baby shower for my son, I received a Lambs and Ivy precious cargo bedding set that I really enjoyed.

The set came complete with everything I needed as far as bedding for my new baby. It came with a matching quilt, sheet, bumper and dust ruffle for the crib. There was also a valance for the window and a bag to stack diapers in.

The nursery seemed to instantly be transformed once I got this set, and it was a gift that I was able to enjoy every day for a long time.

By golf07 — On Sep 01, 2011

Anytime I had my kids in the car with me I felt like I was transporting precious cargo. It didn't matter how old they were I was always protective of them when riding in the car.

Even when they were old enough to ride in the front seat I would instinctively reach my arm across the seat if I had to come to an abrupt stop.

My son would be a little embarrassed by this, but I told him it didn't matter because there was precious cargo in transportation here.

The funny thing is - I have seen him do that with his own kids now.

By jennythelib — On Sep 01, 2011

@MissDaphne - Another problem with those signs is that they, well, announce you have a baby in your car. There are a lot of bad people out there. I suspect that the sign creates more danger than it resolves.

I'm particularly shocked by the new trend of those family stickers people get, which show every member of the family and their approximate age. Some of them even have the names of the children on them! What happened to the rule that you never tell a stranger your name? Safety sense, people!

By MissDaphne — On Aug 31, 2011

I doubt that those "baby on board" signs do any good to make people recognize your precious cargo, your baby. There are so many of them that I think people have stopped even noticing them.

And I've talked to a lot of people who find the signs actively irritating. For one thing, they seem to be asking for special treatment for their child. For another, I think people resent the implication that they do not drive carefully in general - most people like to think that they are good drivers all the time.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.