I was curious what people call a carbonated (with gas) and non-carbonated (gas-free) beverages / drinks in English speaking regions around the world. I need two fixed terms in everyday English which can be acceptable for both American and British while I guess there should be some geographical distinctions.

For instance, what would you call a bottle of water when it contains gas within and when it does not?!

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    Do you want to include "beer" or "champagne" among the carbonated drinks? – James K Apr 27 at 15:21
  • Hello @James K; not at all. They're not included. :) – A-friend Apr 28 at 4:35
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    In Glasgow and the West Coast ginger can be used to refer to any soft drink; it is derived from Ginger Beer/Ale. This is as opposed to singing ginger, which is a fortified wine. Unfortunately, I can't find a reliable reference for either. – CSM Apr 28 at 9:49

As Lambie says, drinks are either carbonated or non-carbonated. I believe these are universal terms used in government or official communication.

In the US:

Carbonated soft drinks are collectively referred to as soda, pop, and in some parts of the country Coke (even for carbonated drinks that are not Coca-Cola). Non-carbonated drinks are referred to by name (fruit punch, lemonade, iced tea, etc.)

Regular water can be either bottled or tap (meaning from the faucet). Carbonated water can be called soda water, and still may be referred to that way when ordering mixed drinks, (e.g. a scotch and soda). These days, however, bottled carbonated water is usually sparkling water, or colloquially bubbly water. Fizzy water also works.

In some fancier restaurants, if you ask for bottled water you may need to specify whether you want sparkling or flat.

Recently there are some naturally carbonated drinks such as kombucha which would not be grouped in with soda, as that usually refers to sweet carbonated drinks like Coke. Because it doesn't really fit into any category, just call it by name, kombucha.

Side note: Historically "soft" drinks were those without alcohol. At a large social gathering, for example, there may be a "soft" punch for the children and adults who didn't drink, and a "hard" punch for the rest. These days when you say "soft drinks" people mostly think of soda, but, technically, it does include any flavored non-alcoholic beverage.

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    Perhaps edit your answer to include the regular name for carbonated soft drinks in the UK - which is simply “fizzy drinks”. – Chris Melville Apr 27 at 22:55
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    @ChrisMelville I'd have to take your word for it, since I don't know what they're called in the UK ... and apparently I can't even really answer for all of the US, as there are many different names. – Andrew Apr 28 at 0:51
  • In my experience, the word "carbonated" is rarely used in the UK, and is considered a US term. We use fizzy. – Avrohom Yisroel Apr 28 at 12:09
  • "Sparkling or still?" is a question I've gotten in restaurants, as opposed to "flat". – Todd Wilcox Apr 28 at 15:00
  • Yes, "still" is understood by Americans even though I don't think we use it much. "Flat" doesn't sound good. It is for drinks that used to be fizzy/carbonated when they were fresh, but not any more, because they "went flat". – Lorel C. Apr 28 at 15:47

In the US, the terms "soda," "pop," and "coke" (small "c") all refer to carbonated non-alcoholic beverages, but depending on locale, only one will actually be used with regularity. In general:

  • "Coke" is most used in the South. Note that "the South" does not extend west of Texas, despite the name.
    • I have been advised by Southerners that, if you ask for "a Coke" in a restaurant, a common response is "What kind of Coke?" It is acceptable to answer this question with "Coke" if you specifically want a Coca-Cola.
  • "Pop" is common in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, as well as the space between them.
  • "Soda" is most used in coastal regions other than those mentioned above (i.e. the Northeast and California), and it also extends into Nevada and Arizona. It also sees a fair amount of usage in urban areas regardless of specific location, but less so in the South.

As for water, specifically, you can call it "sparkling" (fizzy) or "still" (flat). "Fizzy" and "flat" will also be understood by most people, but some people will interpret "flat" as referring to the flavor or mineral content of the water instead. Additionally, you may hear people refer to sparkling water as "seltzer water," "soda water," "club soda," or a variety of other terms (some of which have minor differences in meaning). In the US, "water" without further qualification almost always means still or flat water, so if you want it fizzy, you have to specifically ask for it that way. This is different from Europe, where the waiter will (usually) ask your preference.

  • I think this answer would be even better if it include non-US regional variations; see e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_drink#Terminology for some more. – gidds Apr 27 at 20:47
  • @gidds I don't think we can expect a single answer to cover the whole world. This is clearly marked as applying to the US, so does answer a good chunk of the question. – David Richerby Apr 27 at 21:34
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    @gidds: Other answers adequately cover the UK, and I'm unfamiliar with other English-speaking parts of the world. – Kevin Apr 27 at 21:39

The basic term is carbonated/uncarbonated water or carbonated/uncarbonated drinks. It would be the "technical" term. Not the everyday one.

In the UK, they say fizzy drinks for stuff like Coke and in the US, they say soft drinks.

As for water, sparkling water is used in both for carbonated water.

carbonated and fizzy drinks [UK]

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    In the US, "soft drinks" include non-carbonated ones (like lemonade and fruit punch). – Lorel C. Apr 27 at 14:53
  • Yes, that's true. But there are also carbonated versions of lemonade: sparkling lemonade. – Lambie Apr 27 at 15:03
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    In the UK, bottled or canned soft drinks that are not carbonated are usually called 'still'. – Michael Harvey Apr 27 at 15:25
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    @Lambie, the non-technical name for carbonated drinks in the United States quite famously changes from place to place. – Mark Apr 27 at 19:37
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    In British English, "soft drink" refers to any non-alcoholic drink. It's probably biased towards sweet drinks (e.g., fruit juice, pop, etc.) rather than water, tea and coffee, but the key discriminator is alcohol, not carbonation. – David Richerby Apr 27 at 20:39

In Australia soft drinks are carbonated drinks. Some older folk call them fizzy drinks but this is phasing out as they do.

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