When I order coffee with syrup the Barista takes the syrup from a bottle like this:

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He pushes the pump down completely twice. This is too much syrup for me. I only want one complete push or even only half a push down.

What is the word for the unit of pushing the pump down once?


I'd like a caramel macchiato. But with only half a _____ of syrup.

  • 12
    I often hear "shot" in this context. Jul 24, 2017 at 11:45
  • 10
    "Pump" would suffice. I couldn't agree more with you, problemofficer - those syrups are far too sweet for two full pumps. Jul 24, 2017 at 14:17
  • 2
    Moving away from the "technical" word, I tend to say "...a caramel macchiato, but with half the amount of sugar". That way, even if they normally do 2 pumps, 6 pumps, etc. I don't have to know that to specify the amount of pumps. Just specifying the percentage/amount more generally does it. If I say "...with half the sugar", the barista tends to then say more specifically, "Is 1 [or however many] pump okay?".
    – BruceWayne
    Jul 24, 2017 at 15:22
  • 4
    You can also say "easy on the syrup" or "not too much syrup" or "half the usual amount of syrup." The barrister will probably ask what you mean.
    – Xanne
    Jul 24, 2017 at 17:34
  • 1
    Italian speaker and habitant: Syrup? In coffee? Black coffee with syrup? [gags] Is this syrup, syrup or "liquor"? A tipple of grappa and Sambuca is highly recommended
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 25, 2017 at 9:05

2 Answers 2


You can refer to a single "amount" as a pump.

Each 7.5 oz. Dial® Liquid Hand Soap bottle provides about 125 pumps per bottle.


Though its OED definition is a bit vague and not as strictly defined, you can find a justification for this usage of "pump" as "the amount produced by a single pumping action":

1.1 (in singular) An instance of moving something by or as if by a pump.
‘the pump of blood to her heart’


Though this speaks about the general act of pumping, rather than a countable noun.

However, it seems within the range of acceptability that the produced amount can be referred to by the act of pumping itself.

  • One pump = the produced amount from pumping once.
  • Two pumps = the produced amount from pumping twice.

It's shorthand for counting how often the act of pumping occurs. Similar usages can be found:

  • Two slices of cheese (you slice twice)
  • A pinch of salt (you pinch once)

However, for these examples, their nouns have been well-defined in the OED by now. I believe that the analogous "pump" simply has not been in common usage enough to warrant adding its definition to the OED.

But its correctness should be analogous to that of "slice" or "pinch". From the comment that was posted, "squeeze" and "squirt" are equally correct for the same reason: it uses the act of doing something to describe the produced result from this act.

  • 10
    Pump is how my barista friend refers to it when she's explaining recipes. Jul 24, 2017 at 12:35
  • 3
    @ChrisH The reference is made to the act of pumping (verb), not the pump (noun). Pedantically looking at its definition, a pump is not even a container; in OP's picture the "pump" is limited to the black plastic tool, not the bottle that it is placed on. "pump could (just about) be taken to mean pump-full" The only basis for your claim that it means "the whole bottle" would be that you consider the whole bottle as a pump (noun), which is simply not the case. A pump-full would describe the amount that you can pump in a single go, i.e. the "pump chamber", not the container it is connected to
    – Flater
    Jul 24, 2017 at 13:01
  • 2
    These dispensers have become ubiquitous in coffee shops where the near-universal term for the amount of one full depression of the device is pump. This is important in coffee orders because customers want to specify a fairly exact amount of whatever syrup they want. An order might ask for something like "two pumps caramel and one pump hazelnut" or something like that. I'm not a coffee drinker and I've always and only used pump for this, as in condiment and soap dispensers. My background is native AmE speaker in the mid-Atlantic region. Jul 24, 2017 at 13:24
  • 3
    @ChrisH: "[number] pumps" is what real humans actually use. My answer started with an example of a usage. Hence my answer in the first place, the definition is only a further justification as to why this actual usage can be considered correct (though not literally defined in the OED as such). My argument is based on real world usage.
    – Flater
    Jul 24, 2017 at 13:26
  • 6
    @ChrisH: Google search "pumps of" coffee (everything in bold, including the quotes for better results). Also note that I have come across zero instances where "a pump of" meant to empty the entire container. I'm eager to see an example of that in real world usage.
    – Flater
    Jul 24, 2017 at 14:09

Coffee shops in the UK tend to refer to a shot of syrup.

This presumably originated with the term for a measure of spirits, but is also used for a serving of espresso. That's a similar volume to a serving of syrup so the it's not surprising that the use propagated.

  • 2
    It also (perhaps only coincidentally) alludes to the motion of the liquid as it's dispensed, which when pressurized by a pump tends to "shoot" out of the dispenser.
    – talrnu
    Jul 24, 2017 at 17:10

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