A friend recently asked me a question for which I couldn't find an answer. She said that soup (n.) should not be used to describe cold "soups" (ex: like gazpacho or vichyssoise); that these should be called juices and the word soup should be reserved for warm liquids.

I thought this was ludicrous, but when I went to look at the etymology of soup, I couldn't find anything to dissuade her. Can you help?

Merriam-Webster defines soup as "liquid food", and gazpacho as "spicy soup served cold". Juice is defined as "the liquid part that can be squeezed out of vegetables and fruits."

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    The meaning of a word does not necessarily relate to its origin. Since gazpacho is very often described as a chilled soup or cold soup, however, you may surmise that soup is accurate, but that most English-speakers will assume a soup is served hot unless otherwise specified.
    – choster
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 18:33
  • Do you want to know if a cold soup is still a soup or if the the two dishes you mention are 'soups'?
    – user66974
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 18:36
  • Thanks all--the definition of soup simply comes as "liquid food," and yes, as @choster said, "most English-speakers will assume a soup is served hot unless otherwise specified." I was just curious about where the linguistic line for juice or smoothie ends and soup begins. This is really just a passing curiosity and perhaps doesn't belong on this board. Should I delete it?
    – MRS30
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 18:41
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    good god. I looked at MW and it said liquid food. I looked up gazpacho and it said cold soup. I'll rephrase the question. knuckles sufficiently slapped.
    – MRS30
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 18:49
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    Why? Because most cold liquids are not soup. The same is true of most warm, hot, and lukewarm liquids. Liquids in general are rarely called soup.
    – Drew
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 3:23

2 Answers 2


Taking chaslyfromUK's excellent advice to add this comment as an answer because comments are not always permanent...

A food that is called "soup" does not require it to be cooked first or served warm or even with a spoon to fit the category of "soup".

Juices and smoothies are beverages. Soup is a food that typically takes its place at a certain place in a multi-course meal (before the main course in some cultures or at the end of the meal in other cultures) or can be a stand-alone food, but it is definitely not a beverage.

Vocabulary.com has a serviceable definition that allows for other variations without excluding ones that don't fit a rigid definition:

  1. n. liquid food especially of meat or fish or vegetable stock often containing pieces of solid food

What I take away from this definition is that soup is a "liquid food". Regardless of it's preparation method, ingredients or serving temperature, soup can be anything so named that fits the definition of liquid food (and my additional definition..."that is not a beverage".)

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    The only difference between a spinach and potato smoothie and cold spinach and potato soup is actually whether you think of it as a beverage or as food. You can make a large vat of it in your blender, pour part of it into a glass and drink it as a smoothie, and then serve the rest in a bowl as a soup for dinner. Exact same liquid; only the context it’s served in distinguishes whether it’s a juice/smoothie or a soup. Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 22:08
  • @JanusBahsJacquet This could be the basis for an interesting experiment. Serve two bowls of chicken noodle soup: one cold, one hot, and then ask questions about them in ways that would prompt people's ideas about whether a soup should be hot or cold. Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 1:11

You describe someone's idea that: "the word soup should be reserved for warm liquids."

This seems an odd restriction. Suppose I buy a can of soup. Heat it. Consume some. Put some in the fridge for later. It starts cold, becomes hot, becomes warm, becomes cold again.

If it is soup only during the warm phase, what should I call it the rest of the time? Also, at what precise temperature does the cold 'stuff' transmogrify into 'soup'? It would certainly be possible to define the upper and lower temperatures but no-one is going to do that in real life.

Speaking personally, I enjoy tomato soup poured from a can into a mug and consumed cold - even with ice on a hot day. Should I change the name?

I would not call it tomato juice because that, to me, is the result of removing the liquid element from tomatoes with no additives (except perhaps some salt). By contrast, tomato soup often contains thickening agents as well as other extra ingredients - also it has been cooked at some point.

Final thought

I believe the chief distinction between soup and juice is that the former has been cooked at some point even it is now cold. Cooking makes a chemical change that does not happen with juice.

  • Perhaps it is used for liquids usually eaten with a spoon.
    – MRS30
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 18:55
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    Soup is part of a meal, generally. One eats soup; one doesn't normally drink it. Soup can be of any temperature, as long as it's liquid and edible; but most cold liquids are drunk rather than eaten: milk, pop, iced tea, water, juice, etc. Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 19:02
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    Sorry, @chaslyfromUK but as counter-intuitive as it may seem, not all soups are cooked. I found this recipe for Mango Cucumber soup that is prepared, chilled and served, all without ever being cooked: epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/… Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 19:08
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    OP's friend is not correct - it's soup even though it's never "cooked". Juice and smoothies are beverages, soup is a food that typically takes its place at a certain place in a multi-course meal or is a stand-alone food but it is definitely not a beverage. Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 19:13
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    @JohnLawler This reminds me of a late night game of Scattergories in which the category was "Breakfast food," and the letter was "R." Someone said "Raspberry smoothie." We're still arguing about this 10 years later. Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 1:17

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