In a desktop application or a website we may have a UI element called multiple select. The user may select multiple options by holding the mouse button down, like so:

selecting multiple options with mouse button down

Is there a word or a phrase that can be used to describe this specific action? The other way to make a multiple selection is to hold Ctrl and click individual options, but I'm talking about the method where you hold the mouse button down and move the cursor to make the selection.

A technically inclined friend suggested simply multiple select, but it seems too broad, while a non-nerd native speaker said highlighting, which doesn't seem to fit the bill either.

In Finnish, this is commonly called painting the selection, with the mouse acting as a makeshift paintbrush, indicating the selection by painting the options with a different colour.

I believe that a similar action, selecting, for instance, a group of files from the desktop with the mouse button down is called lasso select, but it is different in that the lasso is actually visible.

  • 1
    Given that the technical name for what you are describing is "multiple select" (w3schools.com/tags/att_select_multiple.asp), it's hard to see past that to think of an alternative. Can you give an example from a different context? Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 7:53
  • 1
    The only way I can think of to make it shorter would be to call it multiselect but the meaning is exactly the same. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 7:55
  • @MaxWilliams The difference is that you can also make multiple selections by holding Ctrl and clicking individual options. I need a phrase to differentiate these two.
    – Antti29
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 7:56
  • Drag select maybe? Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 7:58
  • @Antti29, sorry, when you say "the difference" - between which two things does the difference exist? Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 7:58

1 Answer 1


If you want to differentiate between holding ctrl and clicking individual items, and the technique where you click once and then move the pointer across all the items you want selected, this would most likely be called drag select.

Alternatively referred to as click-and-drag, drag-select is the process of clicking on a portion of the screen, holding down the mouse button, and dragging the cursor to another location. This action will select everything from the beginning to the end of the drag.

  • Windows Explorer, while not a list box, offers both MultiSelect and DragSelect Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 8:45
  • This sounds right, and the useful link you provided confirms it. Thanks!
    – Antti29
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 10:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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