What is the difference in meaning and usage between the nouns “stream”, “flow” (“pour” is excluded from this list based on comments) and probably other words with similar meaning? What is more appropriate when talking about news or other entities of content continuously appearing on a website, other discrete object constantly appearing on one side, moving to other and disappearing there?

  • Pour isn't a noun. Also, it's helpful to us if you first look up each word in a dictionary and try to solve the problem you have before you ask us, and tell us what you've found, so that we can see what you already know. – Matt E. Эллен Jun 19 '13 at 14:35
  • @MattЭллен According to Webster and other dictionaries I used “pour” can be used as noun and is a synonym of “stream”: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pour – Denis Otkidach Jun 19 '13 at 14:43
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    Nope. Pour is a synonym for the verb stream, not the noun. – Matt E. Эллен Jun 19 '13 at 15:12
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    @MattЭллен I admit it's so. But dictionaries clearly state “stream” as synonym to “pour” in section marked “noun”. Is it a mistake in Webster (see link above to verify this) and other dictionaries? What is a more authoritative dictionary to verify such things? – Denis Otkidach Jun 19 '13 at 15:33
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    @bib that is a very technical usage. 'a pour of water' is ungrammitical in AmE. – Mitch Jun 19 '13 at 22:55

When I hear or read the word, stream, first of all I think of a fast flowing, rather narrow, fresh water river. So these word associations fit rather nicely when we talk about something that is constantly moving, and always renewing itself (fresh).

If I am sick in hospital I can say: I had a constant stream of visitors.

An online newspaper website will provide: a stream of news articles.

A 24 hours news programme will boast: Live stream coverage from ABC News

Flow on the other hand, usually describes how liquid runs continuously in one direction, its meaning is quite similar to (a) stream but it lacks the idea of being constantly updated; fresh and new. It is however, in my opinion, more versatile.

Flow is normally collocated with hair, liquids, rivers, alcohol, words (written and spoken), ideas, traffic and information:

  • Her long black hair flowed past her shoulders

  • Champagne flowed freely all evening.

  • "... he spoke in a rich bass voice, with an easy flow of language.."

  • Ideas flowed from her pen

  • Traffic is flowing freely on the motorway tonight

  • A constant flow of information.

There are many other collocations with flow which you will find in any good dictionary. Some you may be able to substitute with the noun or adjective "stream" for example, information, others much less so.

  • Stream is about continuity (look back at your example, 'constant stream'), not about speed. "run or flow in a continuous current in a specified direction": she sat with tears streaming down her face; figurative: sunlight streamed through the windows (oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/stream) Flow incidentally, can be intermittent (sorry about that again!). – Kris Jun 20 '13 at 6:24
  • @kris I expressed my personal feelings, "I think of", to help illustrate why that word is used in certain contexts. Nonetheless I do believe you are nitpicking, as streams are often more quick flowing compared to larger rivers. – Mari-Lou A Jun 20 '13 at 6:53
  • @Kris "Some you may be able to substitute with the noun or adjective "stream" for example, information." – Mari-Lou A Jun 20 '13 at 7:20

I would say that it is very uncommon to use the word flow in the context of:

"news (or other entities of content) continuously appearing on a website"

Stream in this context commonly refers to live video.

The word you are looking for as mentioned in the comments is feed — this is the commonly used noun for content continuously appearing on a website.


You're asking about a metaphor.

Before you think about the words, get the metaphor fixed in your mind.

  • What is flowing? News? Words? Text?
  • Is it incompressible like water or compressible like a gas?
  • Where is it flowing from?
  • Where is it flowing to?
  • What is its channel?
  • How much pressure does it have and where does it come from?
  • Speed, volume, throughput, variability, tides/news cycle

Write up the metaphor frame -- a long description of the metaphor as you see it, but be literal. Use all the fluid verbs you can think of, but use a term for a fluid in the description, instead of news.

Then substitute news for the fluid and see which ones are cliches, which ones are just too weird, and which ones work. There'll be some of each for every metaphor frame.

For more about frames, see Framenet.

  • I think you are over-thinking the question - it appears that the OP wants to know which noun represents continuous content appearing on a website - a feed. Admittedly I am taking the end part of the question as the more pertinent aspect because I believe that is the ultimate goal of the question. – Sam Jun 19 '13 at 23:36
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    @Sam: you just provided a common term that involves a completely separate metaphor, one of -eating-. John is basically saying 'it depends' on what you want, and there are lots of possibilities. But then there are possibilities, and then there is what people actually do. AV is usually streamed, and news items come in a feed. That's just the way people generally call these things. – Mitch Jun 20 '13 at 0:18
  • I disagree - the OP makes it clear what he wants - he wants to know the noun to describe continuous web content. I don't see why this is not clear? – Sam Jun 20 '13 at 0:21
  • There are a lot of them, and they vary. According to metaphors. That's all. – John Lawler Jun 20 '13 at 1:02
  • In my native language (Russian) there is a single word for stream, flow, gush and it can be used to describe discrete object constantly appearing on one side, moving to other and disappearing there, including news items on the site. That's why I don't take it as metaphor. – Denis Otkidach Jun 27 '13 at 12:30

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