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There is this word cap. As I understand it it's a synonym for an upper limit of sth. But is it proper to use it in other context than financial? I checked a several online dictionaries, and they have similar definition:

cap - to put an upper limit on the amount of money that can be spent or charged in connection with a particular activity

So can I say for example products cap is equal to 100 to describe an upper limit of products?

The question might sound weird, but the context is that I'm a software developer and there is discussion should a variable in the code be named products_limit or products_cap because it's simply shorter.

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  • Note that "cap" also has another unrelated meaning that is specific to finance: an abbreviation for "capitalization," as in a public company's "market cap" (the value of all outstanding shares).
    – TypeIA
    Mar 10, 2021 at 7:39

3 Answers 3

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In both CED and MW I find no reference to cap that is not a monetary value. Other than a cover, for example a head covering especially with a visor and no brim a natural cover or top: such as an overlying rock layer that is usually hard to penetrate the top of a bird's head or a patch of distinctively colored feathers in this something that serves as a cover or protection especially for a tip or knob

Therefore in reply to your question. In reference to English language; In short no, because 100 is a quantity not a value $100 would be possible or a £100 would be OK but just 100, no.

I would also suggest there is a subtle difference between "an upper limit of sth" and "upper limit on the amount of money that can be spent" ie the "real value (at that time) compared to the maximum amount you have budgeted for".

This is often used so that seasonal buying of commodities is controlled and will be caped at a percentage of the forecasted high season costs.

However it is your program so you can name it whatever you like.

cap noun [ C ] FINANCE UK /kæp/ US

Ref: CED Cap

[ C ] an upper limit on the amount of money that can be spent or charged in connection with a particular activity:

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  • Thanks for the reply, that's interesting. Why is it a difference if it's a quantity or a value? I see from the other comments that nobody mentioned that?
    – Piotr BG
    Mar 10, 2021 at 10:28
  • because according to both UK and US Dictionaries Cap in this instance is related to money. It maybe mis-spoken to have a meaning in other things but the dictionary definition is related to money. As this is the learners section, not the language I think we should not argue that common use makes it true (or words to that effect) but leave the word use as the dictionaries state.
    – Brad
    Mar 10, 2021 at 11:06
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Yes, a "cap" can refer to the upper limitation on anything. For example you might have a hiring cap meaning you will only hire so many people and no more, even if there are additional applicants. Or a grade cap meaning you decide not to give anyone a grade higher than 98%, for example.

In general "cap" implies that the thing you are limiting would continue to increase if you did not artificially prevent its growth. For example you probably wouldn't say that the height of a blade of grass is "capped" at so many inches or feet if left unmowed; instead you would say its "maximum height" is such-and-such. But you could say that you "capped" the height of your shrubbery by pruning it.

In your specific case I think either "cap" or "limit" would be correct. However you should make "product" singular.

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Yes, a cap is just an upper limit on something, although it is most commonly used in a financial context.

It's perfectly reasonable to say

The cap on the number of products is 100.

Which simply means the number of products can't exceed 100.

In the context of software development, the choice of variable names should not be based on the length of the variable names. Instead, you should try to make the names match the terminology that is used by your clients. If they use the term "limit", then your variables should be product_limit, and if they use "cap", then you should use product_cap.

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