As a non-native speaker I'm looking for the right term for a technical application/product that dispenses or doses a viscous liquid, i.e. the device will "output" a specific amount of "stuff".

However, dosing/dose/dosage appear to be "medical" to me, also maybe describing a ratio of components (like controlling the amount / rate of medicine/drug added to an IV drip).

On the other hand, dispenser more seems to be "outputting" or making available already discrete "entities", e.g. a tissue dispenser.

I'm lacking knowledge of more elaborate uses of those words and appreciate any comments.

  • Check definition & usage applicable to the specific domain. In general English, dispensing focuses on the conveying part ('how', 'what') while dosing focuses on the quantitative aspect ('how much' 'at what rate').
    – Kris
    Aug 1 '13 at 9:46

The two words are frequently used in a medical context, but can be applied elsewhere.

As you say, "dispensing" has more of a sense of "outputting". A pharmacist may dispense a medicine, but that doesn't mean that the patient has taken it.

"Dosing" has more of a sense of "inputting". A nurse giving a medicine to a patient would be "dosing".

  • Thanks, this is putting in words what I felt. As a follow-up question, what would you call the output, e.g. "amount"/"dose"/"portion"/"volume"?
    – none
    Aug 1 '13 at 9:46
  • "Dosing" is extensively used in the sense of 'outputting' as well. Think dosing machine search.google.com/search?q="dosing+machine"
    – Kris
    Aug 1 '13 at 9:49
  • @none, I would think you would dispense a volume of liquid.
    – JLG
    Aug 1 '13 at 18:40

As the device outputs a viscous liquid, "dispense" seems to be an accurate term. The product can be compared to a soap dispenser. Therefore, I would suggest calling the product a

-type of viscous liquid- dispenser


Until just a few minutes ago, I was unware of the verb form to dose.

A quick Google Search brought me to the Wikipedia article which explains that it is commonly used by engineers in thermal power stations, in water treatment, in steam industries, and chemical or textile plants.

If your intended audience does not work in any of those industries, I would avoid using dose.

As to your concern about dispenser, it is not limited to discrete amounts. In fact a quick Google Image search for dispenser demonstrates that some of the most common types of dispensers are for water, liquid soap, and tape, each of which are not dispensed in discrete amounts.

  • 2
    Your answer illustrates the problem of using "quick Google searches" and "Wikipedia" in making deductions about other uses. Just because the examples of "dose" that you found relate to " thermal power stations, in water treatment, in steam industries, and chemical or textile plants" does not mean that it is not used in other areas. For example, you can give your garden plants the right dose of plant food; you should use the correct dose of weedkiller, etc.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 1 '13 at 10:59
  • Additionally, the fact that the most common types of dispensers maybe the ones you saw on an image search, does not mean that all dispensers dispense in non-discrete amounts. It depends on what the dispenser is dispensing - some dispensers do dispense discrete amounts. Do not jump to conclusions about what words mean merely from the most popular Google results!!
    – TrevorD
    Aug 1 '13 at 12:15
  • @TrevorD, I was referring to the use of dose as a verb, "to dose", perhaps that was unclear. "A dose" is certainly common as a noun, to give a dose, etc.
    – Xantix
    Aug 1 '13 at 21:48
  • @TrevorD, I agree that google searches, wikipedia searches, etc. should not be the basis of one's conclusion, however, as evidence that a dispenser can be of non-discrete amounts, I feel it was pretty convincing. The meaning of "dispenser" is based on usage of the word. A google search can give an initial look into the words' usages...therefore its meaning. However, that should not replace native speaker familiarity with the word, dictionaries, etc.
    – Xantix
    Aug 1 '13 at 21:53

To confirm and provide further evidence that a dispenser is the word you are looking for. Moreover, the nozzle bit is commonly referred to as a pump dispenser.

enter image description here

The plastic container description in verbatim:

The dispenser bottles are an ideal solution for liquid dispensing and storage. The pump can be relocked by pushing down with a press pump action for easy dispensing. The plastic lotion dispenser bottles are suitable for shampoo, lotions, soap, sanitiser, creams and more.

definition of nozzle http://www.thefreedictionary.com/nozzle

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.