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What does "120 Count" on a pack of pills mean? I wasn't able to find it in a dictionary

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  • What does your research tell you? Of course, it might not be in the dictionary but it might be on sites that sell pills.
    – Lambie
    Jan 12 at 20:28
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    What did you look up in the dictionary? One of the most common definitions of "count" is "a total obtained by counting". A number of the other definitions include "a total number". If you have a pack of pills with "120 Count" written on it, what do you think is the total number "count" might be referring to? What would be something you'd want to know the total number of in a pack of pills (which would make sense without specifying a unit or dosage, so not milligrams or days)?
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 13 at 9:48
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    Some befuddled person might read 120 pills as 120 mg pills and consequently take an overdose. Perhaps the motivation was that 120 count is less likely to cause misapprehension. A six-fold overdose might not matter with this product but the wording might be mandated or used consistently to set a standard that reduces such problems with other products. Jan 13 at 22:15

3 Answers 3

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To add to the other answers that explain what the word "count" means, I'll help explain why it's worded like it is. The structure "100 Count" is unique, and not the way most people would speak.

However, it's worded like it is to comply with product label regulations. For example, take a look at Part 6 of this US Guide for Labeling Consumer Package: https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/SpecialPublications/NIST.SP.1020.pdf

(Other countries have similar guides, but this was the most clearly-written of the ones I looked at.)

So you can see here that "count" can be considered a unit of measure, in the same way you might label other products "100 grams" or "1 litre". It shows that there are 100 pieces of the item in the package.

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  • I think there's a few reasons for this regulation. Firstly it eliminates the seller making up a new word ... especially one that self-serving, 120 Wonder Meds. Second it eliminates the burden of creating a list of every 'ok' description be it pills or biscuits (or cakes or cupcakes or muffins, or scones or whatever). Third it accommodates situations where many different items are in the package ... 12 nuts, 24 bolts, four matches, five tic-tacs. Jan 14 at 6:32
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    @RandyZeitman One might wonder, though, why the distinctly unnatural-sounding count was chosen, rather than a neutral but still common term like items, pieces, units or similar. Jan 14 at 10:04
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    It's "count" as opposed to "by weight".
    – fectin
    Jan 14 at 11:47
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    @RandyZeitman If there are 75,000 grains of rice in the bag, then yes, you are – even if rice generally is not considered to be distinct, countable units the way tablets are. I have no idea what you mean by ‘descriptors’ and ‘nominal’ here (they are all nominal in that they’re all nouns), but if the parallel is meant to imply that you’d be buying 75,000 count of rice, that certainly sounds no less odd than 75,000 units of rice. Jan 14 at 21:54
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Piece is an acceptable option in the regulation, but not normally associated with pills or tablets. Units can be ambiguous. Items connotes certain level of distinctness. And count was not invented by the regulations, it was (and is) already commonly used in pharmacy and industry, and school credits used to be called "academic counts" in some places. I certainly do not consider it "distinctly unnatural-sounding", even if it's not used much in everyday contexts.
    – xngtng
    Jan 15 at 16:11
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The "count" of the pills is 120. So there are 120 pills in the container.

It's a short and abbreviated form.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Glorfindel
    Jan 16 at 17:08
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Collins Dictionary lists the meaning used

12. the number reached by counting; total number or quantity

It means there are 120 pills/soft gels/capsules in the bottle.

One of the images confirms it.

enter image description here

If I were to speculate and explain this marketing word choice, I would argue that "count" bears a scientific connotation (a scientifically measured amount of something) and gives the impression of a greater accuracy than that of "pills".

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  • Indeed, it sounds pharmacyish. Jan 13 at 0:29
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    Your second sentence provides the reason: it's a generic term that works for pills, soft gels, capsules, etc.
    – chepner
    Jan 13 at 13:41
  • This does not prove that the word count is legitimate in this context. How could it? There is no argument about the meaning of count. Just the use of that word here.
    – Lambie
    Jan 13 at 15:45
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    I can well believe pharmacists would say "30 count 30mg tablets" in preference to "30 30mg tablets" as a miscommunication could have fatal consequences.
    – mjt
    Jan 13 at 16:56
  • @mjt, Indeed, the FDA tells you to be very wary of issues like that: the preferred version is "X tablets, Y mg each." accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/… Jan 16 at 15:27

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