What is normally called fizzy water that contains many small bubbles of gas?

  1. Carbonated water
  2. Sparkling water
  3. Soda

To me they all mean the same thing, though I think "soda" is a sweet type of (carbonated / sparkling) water, though I'm not quite confident.

The same goes with every other beverage. Does "carbonated" and "sparkling" work the same with any other liquid / beverage except for water?

Please kindly enlighten me.

  • Well it is quite clear from the definitions that you have provided/linked. Everyone one of them is a carbonated drink (containing small bubbles of gas). This is scientifically true. If you want more bubbles, you can shake the drink vigorously to generate tremendous amount of bubbles. Also, Soda is not sweet type sparkling water, it definitely contains more than water in it. Oct 20, 2020 at 19:53
  • @DhanishthaGhosh Scientifically, they don't contain gas bubbles, they contain dissolved gasses. Oct 21, 2020 at 5:35
  • @Acccumulation True. My sentence formation is incorrect. Dissolved CO2 is what causes the gas bubbles to erupt. Thank you for pointing it out. Oct 21, 2020 at 13:03
  • 1
    Relevant Community Wiki on the cooking SE site: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/784/…
    – nick012000
    Oct 21, 2020 at 16:16
  • 2
    "Soda" is ambiguous, as many people regard beverages like Coca Cola to be "soda".
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 21, 2020 at 21:47

3 Answers 3


This is something that can vary depending on where in the English-speaking world you are. There are also some words that are used very precisely within the beverage industry, but perhaps more broadly and imprecisely by the general public.

Here are a few terms that apply to unflavored, unsweetened, carbonated water:

  • Carbonated water is not really a special term, it's a technical phrase that describes water put under pressure and supersaturated with dissolved carbon dioxide. At atmospheric pressure, the CO2 spontaneously comes out of solution in the form of little bubbles. Thus, it's an umbrella term that includes all the other varieties I'm listing below.

  • Fizzy water I think of as distinctly British and I think it means any carbonated water, but I welcome any correction from a BrE speaker.

  • Sparkling water (sometimes sparkling mineral water) is water that is naturally carbonated by dissolving carbonate minerals underground. It will also contain other dissolved minerals. Some people may use "sparkling water" to mean all types of carbonated water, but in some places it is illegal use the label "sparkling water" commercially if it is not naturally carbonated.

  • Club soda or soda water is an artificial imitation of sparkling mineral water. Dissolved minerals and carbonation are added by a manufacturer in the bottling/canning process. Each maker of club soda has their own proprietary recipe, but sodium bicarbonate is a common ingredient, which is where the "soda" name came from.

  • Seltzer water (or just seltzer) is water that is carbonated on-demand, often with a CO2 cartridge in some hand-held device. I used to think of seltzer as an old-fashioned term dating from the mid-20th century when a soda siphon might have been a feature of a luxuriously-appointed home bar (or a prop in a Three Stooges episode). The term has become more common in recent years as home carbonation kits like the SodaStream have become popular. Some people may use the term to mean any carbonated water.

When you are talking about sweetened, flavored beverages, then the most technically precise phrase would be carbonated beverage. What people call them in everyday speech varies a lot depending on where in the English-speaking world you are, you might hear any of the following:

soda; pop; soda pop; soft drink; fizzy drink; tonic; coke

Note that tonic is the name of a particular flavor and Coke is a specific brand, but there are places that use these words as generic terms for all carbonated beverages.

Here's an article with a map showing the geographic distribution of these terms in the USA.

  • 10
    @GorttheRobot I've enjoyed tonic water straight many times in the past. So... now you have. :-) Oct 21, 2020 at 4:09
  • 4
    You might add cola to your final list as a generic, non-brand term.
    – TripeHound
    Oct 21, 2020 at 6:44
  • 8
    As the answer says, these terms vary from place to place! In the UK, ‘sparkling’ (= with dissolved CO₂) is merely the opposite of ‘still’ (= no dissolved CO₂), has no other implication, and can be applied to various drinks. However, ‘mineral water’ must be from a spring with minimal processing. Also, I'm not sure how current it is, but we always used ‘fizz’ as the generic term for fizzy drinks.
    – gidds
    Oct 21, 2020 at 8:50
  • 2
    As a final regional variation - as a BrE speaker, I'd almost never use the term beverage, so my generic term would be 'carbonated drink'. Oct 21, 2020 at 10:56
  • 3
    In the west of Scotland (around Glasgow) the generic, non brand term often used is "ginger". In the east (around Edinburgh) you might hear "juice". Oct 21, 2020 at 12:27

There is an honestly almost insane degree of regional variation here, and there is even some dialectal variation in highly localized cases.

  • Carbonated Water: Will usually be understood as water with enough carbon dioxide or carbonic acid dissolved in it to cause it to spontaneously produce small bubbles of carbon dioxide at room temperature. Using the term ‘drink’ or ‘beverage’ instead of ‘water’ makes it more generic and will often but not always be understood as a drink of some other sort that is similarly carbonated.
  • Sparkling Water: At minimum has a similar meaning to carbonated water, but may have far more specific implications about the origins of the water (possibly even legally defined in some parts of the world). The term ‘sparkling’ is also used of wines and juices that have carbonation (champagne being the classic example, with the term ‘champagne’ actually being used as a generic term in some parts of the world for any sparkling wine).
  • Mineral Water: May be sparkling or ‘still’ (no carbonation), this almost always refers to natural spring water, with any carbonation typically being from a natural source. In some places, ‘sparkling water’ implicitly means ‘sparkling mineral water’.
  • Soda: This one is a bit complicated. Soda water was historically water that had sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) dissolved in it, which produces some degree of carbonation (albeit less than directly dissolving carbon dioxide or carbonic acid), with it historically being used as a heartburn cure (mostly because of the high pH of the sodium bicarbonate, not the carbonation it produced). This eventually became what is known today as club soda, which is a (usually unflavored) drink used mostly as a component in mixed drinks designed to approximate natural mineral waters. The term ‘soda’ has become a generic in some English-speaking countries to refer to flavored carbonated drinks such as Coca-Cola. Sometimes also ‘soda pop’ (see below).
  • Pop:: Derived from the term ‘soda pop’ and used as a generic in pretty much the same way that ‘soda’ is, this seems to mostly be an American term (that is, I’ve only ever heard it used by Americans).
  • Tonic: This term originally meant a medicinal drink (and still does to some extent). ‘Modern’ tonic water is an ingredient in some mixed drinks, and consists of quinine (a bitter alkaloid compound used to treat certain parasitic infections such as malaria, which coincidentally makes tonic water fluoresce a rather brilliant blue color under ultraviolet light) dissolved in water. Depending on context and where you are, ‘tonic’ by itself may refer to tonic water, or it may refer to tonics in the general medicinal sense, or it may even be used as a generic for carbonated drinks similar to how ‘soda’ is used. Many of the oldest carbonated beverages were originally medicinal preparations (Coca-Cola being a prime example), hence the association with the term ‘tonic’.
  • Seltzer: Sometimes also ‘seltzer water’, this is usually synonymous with ‘carbonated water’ or ‘sparkling water’, though ‘seltzer’ by itself may be used as a generic similar to ‘soda’ or ‘tonic’.
  • Cola: Is yet another generic term used similarly to ‘soda’ or ‘tonic’. In some places it has particular implications about the flavors involved, and it often means that the drink in question has caffeine in it in high enough concentrations to actually be considered caffeinated. This originally referred to drinks that used the kola nut as a major ingredient (such as the original formulation of Coca-Cola).
  • Soft Drink: This one has an interesting history. Originally, it referred to a d mixed drink that did not include ‘hard’ (high proof or high %ABV) liquor. It’s still occasionally used in that sense (and ‘hard’ is still used in some places to refer to certain types of alcoholic beverage, such as hard cider), and extrapolation from there to other intoxicants (for example, the cocaine that was in the original formulation of Coca-Cola) lead to usage as a generic in the same sense as ‘soda’ or ‘tonic’.

In addition to all of this, there are some more generic adjectives such as ‘fizzy’ and ‘bubbly’ that have come to be used as generic nouns for such things, and quite a few brand-generics such as ‘coke’ that are used for these as well.

  • 2
    And there is great regional variation on these terms in North America, particularly with how these terms are used for commercial flavored carbonated drinks (Coke, Dr. Pepper, Ginger Ale, etc.). I grew up in Montreal, where you'd drink a soft drink, but my relatives in Toronto would drink pop. For about 10 years, I lived in Rhode Island and worked near Boston - one of them used soda (but not always both). I've lived in Texas for 20 years now, and coke is used generically ("what do you want to drink?", "coke", "what kind?", "oh, Dr. Pepper")
    – Flydog57
    Oct 21, 2020 at 14:46
  • @Flydog57 In my experience 'soda' is used on the East Coast and 'pop' is used in the upper Midwest / Lakes region.
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 22, 2020 at 15:48
  • @JimmyJames Soda also shows up in the southwest (Cali, Arizona, south Nevada) and all around St.Louis, for some reason (and Milwaukee, but not Chicago, go figure). "Pop" is pretty common in Canada, and in the US south it mostly all turns to "coke".
    – J...
    Oct 23, 2020 at 15:10
  • @J... Not in the Southeast costal states. Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola and brand awareness is high in the region.
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 23, 2020 at 15:19
  • 'in the US south it mostly all turns to "coke"' This is incorrect, at least the southeast. I recall discussing how there were places where people did this and we all thought it was really weird. Frankly, I wasn't sure it was even true. It seemed too bizarre. In the pre-internet days, urban legends were common.
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 23, 2020 at 16:07

Yes those are all correct. There is a great deal of dialect variation (and even "idiolect" variation, I mean variation from person to person, even if they speak the same dialect)

"Carbonated water" sounds quite technical, like an scientific document about water types. It is the term used by wikipedia.

The consumption of carbonated water and non-alcohol carbonated beverages increased by 12.4% in the period 2012 to 2016.

"Sparkling water" sounds like advertising talk: not boring "still water" but exciting "sparkling water". So Perrier and so on are called "Sparkling water".

Bottled water? Certainly, sir. Would you like still or sparkling?

Soda water is a type of sparkling water that is used as a mixer with whiskey. It is usually highly carbonated and contains sodium bicarbonate, which gives it a particular flavour.

Individuals have their own words:

fizzy water, bubbly water, seltzer, pop, coke, ...

  • 3
    Carbonated is not especially clinical in North America; you could ask any bartender or waitress for something carbonated or with carbonation, and they would not bat an eye. (Fizzy, on the other hand, would be unusual unless you were trying to flirt, or had just turned 7.) That said, if you specifically want some kind of carbonated water and not ginger ale or Pepsi or some such, you'd ask for a specific manifestation of it — sparkling water, soda water, mineral water, club soda, tonic water, seltzer, etc., the definitions and boundaries of which result in many a bar argument.
    – choster
    Oct 20, 2020 at 20:42
  • 1
    I think that's the other way around @Acccumulation! Logically, the word "soda" should be originated from the element "sodium"!
    – A-friend
    Oct 21, 2020 at 11:01
  • 3
    @James K, I think there is a regional difference between "still" and "flat / soft" water, where the former is used in UK and the latter ones in AmE.
    – A-friend
    Oct 21, 2020 at 11:02
  • 1
    @A-friend Why logically? The element "sodium" was named in 1808. The first use of "soda water" was 1802, but "soda" for things similar to what we would call "washing soda" or "soda ash" is older than that (earliest known is 1558!). Oct 21, 2020 at 15:57
  • 2
    @A-friend we don't use "flat" or "soft" water as a description of water that isn't bubbly, at least in my area. "Flat" would describe water that had been bubbly but isn't anymore, and "soft" describes water that doesn't contain ions. Sure, "soft" implies that there isn't much sodium bicarbonate but it isn't a description of drinks for sale and rather more for tap/running water.
    – gormadoc
    Oct 22, 2020 at 18:38

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