I have to differentiate drinks with sugar and drinks with non-nutritive sweeteners.

It seems to me that a sweetened drink can refer to both, and that sweet drinks only contain sugar.

Is there any specific term for drinks with artificial sweeteners ?

Sentence example :

Drinks with non-nutritive sweeteners may be quite as bad for your health as sweet drinks.

NB : in French we have to word édulcorant, which means "which can give a sweet taste"

EDIT : the aim of my question is a scientific article. Thus I want to be as specific as I can.

  • 12
    They're called diet drinks.
    – KarlG
    Feb 19, 2018 at 15:20
  • 2
    @KarlG Were your comment posted as an answer I'd upvote it. Feb 19, 2018 at 17:36
  • @DarrenRinger They did. english.stackexchange.com/a/431852/98840 Feb 20, 2018 at 10:09
  • "sweet drinks" are drinks that taste sweet - whether or not they contain sugar.
    – psmears
    Feb 20, 2018 at 12:04
  • The terminology here is intentionally obfuscated by the sweetener/soft drink industry (aided and abetted by the nutty end of the health food military/industrial complex).
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 20, 2018 at 13:29

5 Answers 5


We don't have a single-word term that I'm aware of. We might talk about "drinks with artificial sweeteners" for example. Or a drink might have an advert/label that says "no artificial sweeteners!".

You're correct that "sweetened" may be with sugar or may be artificial. We do have another adjective "sugary" which according to dicitonary.com means "sweet" or "excessively sweet", but I would only use it for things which contain actual sugar.

As to your sentence example, I'd probably use:

Drinks with artificial sweeteners may be just as bad for your health as sugary drinks.

  • 1
    The problem with this is that some sweeteners are not artificial, e.g. stevia.
    – Richard
    Feb 20, 2018 at 8:26
  • @Richard - Very true. As of now I have no idea how to work that into my answer (my brain's obviously not in gear).
    – AndyT
    Feb 20, 2018 at 9:04
  • 1
    Why is that a problem? The OP wants a (different) specific term for artificial sweeteners, there isn't one, so use "artificial sweeteners". Makes sense to me. Whether or not it rules out stevia is moot, surely? And +1 for "sugary" I think that's the most useful word anyone's introduced to the answers.
    – Rupe
    Feb 20, 2018 at 11:21
  • I've seen the term "zero-calorie sweetener" or "low calorie sweetener" used in these contexts.
    – Tyzoid
    Feb 20, 2018 at 14:58

In English such beverages are called diet drinks or sugar-free. As common as these names may be, their origins lie in advertising and the manufacturers who pay for it.

Until the recent emergence of a natural product, stevia, as a sweetener, artificially sweetened was accurate, since sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharine, or cyclamates are manufactured chemicals.

In the 1970's the number of beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup skyrocketed. In the advertising sense, then, a sugar-free beverage is one free of sucrose, fructose, or glucose.

I am unaware of a categorical term exclusive to these three sugars that would readily eliminate others such as maltose and lactose. So if sugar-free is not precise enough, your only option is first to use a longer expression, abbreviate it at its first mention, then use the abbreviation thereafter.

a beverage sweetened without sucrose, fructose, or glucose (non-SFG beverage)

This type of ad hoc abbreviation is common in academic writing, and if the abbreviation proves useful, others will begin to use it as well.

  • 1
    The term "diet drinks" is only widespread in the US, and is diminishing even here, at least in marketing.
    – arp
    Feb 19, 2018 at 19:00
  • 3
    Thus the rise of sugar-free.
    – KarlG
    Feb 19, 2018 at 19:31
  • Diet drink seems a good way to go, but since I'm targeting scientific reporting, I'm afraid it could be seen as non-scientific. What do you think about it ? Would "sugar-free sweet beverage" sound better ? Feb 20, 2018 at 10:24
  • 1
    "diet drinks" is widespread in the UK also.
    – N. Virgo
    Feb 20, 2018 at 10:34
  • @DanChaltiel: I've incorporated your concerns in a revision of my answer.
    – KarlG
    Feb 20, 2018 at 11:17

'So, is there any specific term for drinks with artificial sweeteners?' At present time: NO.

'It seems to me that a sweetened drink can refer to both, and that sweet drinks only contain sugar.' But that is not necessarily the case either. Some naturally sweet fruit drinks are further sweetened by either natural sugars, artificial sweeteners or both.

Lot of FDA food politics in the states re: food labeling of natural sugars, artificial sugars, and combinations! For those that need to absolutely know, check the labels and/or contact the manufacturer. Here is a nifty table with labeling guide: FDA artificial sweeteners

And then there is this:

Nutrasweet in Milk–With No Label? Find Out What’s Really Going On nutrasweet in milk without labeling This is a proposal by our government to allow a sweetener without labeling for the public good!

  • I'd upvote your comment if it wasn't for the "wholenewmom" link. Feb 20, 2018 at 10:19

The word "sweetened" implies that an action has been taken to sweeten the drink. "Sweet" on the other hand, implies that the drink contains sugar. However, it has been widely, and incorrectly, used oftentimes, to refer to sweetened drinks.

  • This explains some things but I'm afraid it doesn't answer to my question. Feb 19, 2018 at 13:55
  • 6
    Do you have any source for the claim that "sweet" implies that the drink contains sugar? To me sweet is primarily a description of taste, not implying any specific ingredient.
    – oerkelens
    Feb 19, 2018 at 15:28
  • A substance tastes sweet because it has sugar
    – QuIcKmAtHs
    Feb 19, 2018 at 21:39
  • 1
    @QuIcKmAtHs Not exclusively. Aspartame, saccharine, stevia and other substances taste sweet but contain no sugar. Sweet is one of the five basic tastes recognised by human beings and the sweet sensation is produced by the combination of stimulation of taste buds and processing of the resulting electrical impulse by the brain. Anything which produces a sweet sensation is sweet (though, arguably, only products sweetened with sugar can be described as 'sugary')
    – BoldBen
    Feb 20, 2018 at 7:50

I would challange both of your assumptions.

"sweetened" means that something has been added to the drink to make it taste sweeter (see Merriam-Webster definition "1"). This something may be cane sugar, stevia, or something like aspartamine. (You would need to check food and drink regulations in your jurisdiction to see if adding "grape juice" counts as "sweetened").

"sweet" means that the drink tastes sweet (see Merriam-Webster definition "1(a)(2)"). This may be because of naturally present sugars (for example: pure apple juice) or because the drink has been sweetened. I would say that Diet Coke has a (sickly) sweet drink, but it has no sugar at all.

We have no one-word terms for "drinks without artificial sweetners". We do have "unsweetened", which means nothing has been added. Technically "drinks without artificial sweetners" includes "unsweetened", but in practise it means "sweetened with natural sweetners".

"Diet drinks" is as close as you will get for "drinks with artificial sweetners".

  • I think my problem is not "which one is the good formulation", but more "which formulation will be the best understood". Diet drink seems a good way to go, but since I'm targeting scientific reporting, I'm afraid it could be seen as non-scientific. Feb 20, 2018 at 10:23

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.