packed to the gills/bursting at the seams

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redgiant

Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
Example: The store was packed to the gills/bursting at the seams on Black Friday, with shoppers fighting each other over towels. (made-up sentence)

I just came across "packed to the gills" in a book and it appears to be one of the many phrases/idioms in reference to an overcrowded place. It somehow reminds me of another idiom "bursting at the seams". Do they mean the same thing in my sentence? Do you make any distinction between them?
 
  • ESustad

    Senior Member
    English - (Minnesota)
    They are very similar in meaning. To my ear, "packed to the gills" sounds better than "bursting at the seams," when you're referring to people, but either one works.
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you very much, ESustad. I agree with you that "Packed to the gills" is better in reference to people. My feeling is that it depends on what verb you use with "to the gills". If you said "The store was stuffed to the gills", I'd take it to mean the store was stuffed with goods, items etc, rather than people.
     
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