Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibres and is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibers. Jute fibres are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose (major component of plant fibre) and lignin (major components of wood fibre). It is thus a ligno-cellulosic fibre that is partially a textile fibre and partially wood. It falls into the bast fibre category (fibre collected from bast or skin of the plant) along with kenaf, industrial hemp, flax (linen), ramie, etc. The industrial term for jute fibre is raw jute. The fibres are off-white to brown, and 1–4 metres (3–12 feet) long.
Jute fibre is often called hessian; jute fabrics are also called hessian cloth and jute sacks are called gunny bags in some European countries. The fabric made from jute is popularly known as burlap in North America.