I need to be able to refer to an object which has/needs something applied to it or used on it. A couple of examples:

  • one liter of paint is needed to paint an area of 10m².
  • 6 birthday candles are needed to decorate a birthday cake.
  • 1000 bricks are enough to lay a 100m long pavement track.

What I'm trying to describe here is : area, birthday cake, pavement.

The best I've come up with is 'object of application'. I looked it up on Google, and it mostly refers to terms in objective programming, so that wasn't a great deal of help.

Any suggestions ?

  • 1
    What about: unit of application?
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 9:46
  • There already is a variable named 'units' - units of measurements (liters, meters, etc.), so naming something 'unit' again would cause unnecessary ambiguity. Thanks for the suggestion though.
    – gskema
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 11:21

3 Answers 3


The word which linguistics/grammar uses for this is patient:

patient Linguistics The semantic role of a noun phrase denoting something that is affected or acted upon by the action of a verb. [ODO]

...that is, "something which receives an action".

  • Although not very technical, I believe that this word best fits the description.
    – gskema
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 11:38

"Target area" or just "target" might work.


I suggest substrate. OED:

n1. A thing which underlies or forms the basis of another; a substratum, a foundation. Freq. fig.

. . .

n5. Materials Sci. Any bulk phase or material to which a film, coating, etc., is applied.

  • Not quite what I'm looking for.
    – gskema
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 11:35

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