When we take a drink, we pause after taking a certain amount, usually a mouthful of this. What are the pauses called? Supposing X is drinking something. They took some of this, and stopped five times in between. Do we say any of the following:

  • They took the drink in five breaths.

  • They took the drink in five breathing pauses.

  • They took five breathing pauses while taking the drink.

  • They took five gulps while drinking.

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    "He downed the drink in five gulps." See Lexico verb²: informal Consume (something, typically a drink). Less informal might be finished. Oct 27, 2020 at 10:13
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    I don't know that anyone has ever felt a need to give a name to the 'breathing pauses'. Oct 27, 2020 at 10:16
  • Or simply 'in one breath': He took the drink in five breaths.??? He recited the whole poem in one breath. oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/…
    – xeesid
    Oct 27, 2020 at 10:19
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    "He downed the drink in five gulps" sounds pretty natural to me and I would take that to mean he swallowed 5 times and didn't take any breaths in between. This interpretation is admittedly more due to "downed", but "gulps" doesn't imply taking a breath or break in between (and it might lean towards not doing so).
    – NotThatGuy
    Oct 28, 2020 at 3:17

3 Answers 3


You're looking for a name for the pause between mouthfuls when actually you need a word for the mouthfuls themselves.

Small mouthfuls of liquid are called "sips", larger ones "gulps".

If you said "they drank the glass of water" that could mean they drank it all in one go. If you said "they sipped the glass of water" that means they took small sips of it, so the pauses in between are tacit.

Having said that, if you said "they spent the night drinking whiskey" I'm pretty sure nobody would think that meant they had whiskey pouring down their throat all night long without pausing to take a breath. You could say "they spent the night sipping whiskey" and that paints a more descriptive picture.

Once you use a word like "sip" or "gulp" there would be likely no need to describe any gap inbetween. Some exceptions to this might be if you were creatively describing such a huge succession of gulps that he struggled for breath afterwards. In British English there is a coloqiaul expression for when someone is eating their food too quickly which is to ask them them "come up for air". In normal speech though it would be unnecessary to say someone took a breath between sips.

  • I agree and these are wonderful pieces of knowledge but my question was about using 'breaths'. Can we use it? Does it sound natural? i.e. He took the drink in five breaths.
    – xeesid
    Oct 28, 2020 at 5:13
  • 1
    @xeesid You could say he took a breath after "drinking", but that could sound like he drank the whole glass and then took a breath. You'd have to use a word like "sip" or "gulp", and when you do that, describing the pause inbetween becomes redundant. It might be grammatical but it wouldn't be good use of language.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 28, 2020 at 9:21
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    @xeesid: It really isn’t natural in English to use “breaths” or any synonym here. As this answer says, the usual way to count drinking-and-pausing in English is by the gulps, sips, mouthfuls, etc. I could easily imagine some other languages might count by the breaths/pauses (out of interest, are you asking this because you’re translating from such a language?), but in English, gulps or similar is the idiomatic thing to use.
    – PLL
    Oct 28, 2020 at 17:41
  • @xeesid no, it sounds bizarre in english.
    – eps
    Oct 28, 2020 at 20:37

There is a precise word for the "actively drinking" action, but it's fairly dated / poetical today. From the full Oxford English Dictionary (behind a paywall, I'm afraid)...

(Section 5 - Senses relating to the imbibing of liquid, subdefinition 14a)
The drawing of liquid into the mouth or down the throat;
an act of drinking, a drink;
the quantity of drink swallowed at one ‘pull’.

From the same source, there's also...

swig (slang or colloquial)
An act of ‘swigging’;
a deep or copious draught of a beverage, esp. of intoxicating liquor; a ‘pull’.

So - if your context is quite formal, draught is exactly what you want. But in any other context you should probably go with pull even though it's a bit slangy. Note that even the OED had no choice but to use it in their definitions - but at least they acknowledge its "lowly status" by putting it in "scare quotes".

Note that I can't see any possible use for a word to reference "the pause between any two consecutive draughts", just as I doubt any language (not just English) has a dedicated word for the pause between any two consecutive acts of putting food in one's mouth.

  • "It's a mockery that is kept away from the eagers of ears whether he draught a bottle or a keg!" I really liked the usage.. Oct 27, 2020 at 18:24
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    @BerkerYüceer: I've not come across that "eager of ear" construction before (might it perhaps be "translated" from another language?). And Google only finds half-a-dozen instances of the singular form anyway (mostly adjectival, not "nominal"), so I'm guessing your "mockery" example is a construction of your own devising, not some obscure line from Shakespeare. But I do quite like the sound of "eagers of ears" (which I take it refers to "gossip-mongers, nosy parkers" or similar). Oct 27, 2020 at 18:50
  • you couldnt be more correct! I am trying to create effective lines in a story so I found your examples very usefull. :) Oct 28, 2020 at 7:28
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    Bear in mind that if you modeled eager of ear on keen of eye, that's actually keen = sharp, not avid. So the "sharp of brain" reader would probably guess your text wasn't exactly 100% authentic. It's a nice turn of phrase though! :) Oct 28, 2020 at 12:10

There is no English word for the pauses. We could say:

They drank it in five mouthfuls.

They drank it in five sips.

They drank it in five gulps.

In reality we wouldn't count as far as five with regard to drinking, so we might see:

They drank it in small sips.

They drank it in two gulps.

  • Note that if there were five pauses (which as you say, there is no standard word for) then they drank it in six mouthfuls. Oct 28, 2020 at 9:25
  • @Especially Lime - I pause after drinking. Oct 28, 2020 at 11:23
  • OP says "stopped five times in between". Oct 28, 2020 at 11:50
  • 1
    @Especially Lime - The last pause is in between the current drink and the next drink. There will always be a next drink or I will die of thirst. (Unless of course it is the last drink of my entire life - it then depends whether or not you believe in reincarnation. I also reserve the right to count the very long pause before I was born. Oct 28, 2020 at 12:35

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