Given an object that can hold a capacity of something, is there a word which describes the current amount it holds towards that capacity?

For example, if an elevator has a capacity of 20 persons, and the current number of occupants is six, the elevator's <some property of the elevator> is six?

Update: The commentary on @jwpat7's excellent answer made me realize something which hadn't occurred to me: the nature of the container and the things it holds have an impact on the appropriate description. I picked an arbitrary example using people, but the reason I've been seeking this word is to describe discrete (i.e. not something like liquid in a tank) inanimate contents.

A better example would be: an egg carton has a capacity of 12 eggs. It currently holds 7. How does one describe the amount currently held: "The carton's <this> is 7 eggs"?

  • 1
    quite simply, in English it depends on the object. so you'd have to say which items you mean.
    – Fattie
    Sep 19, 2014 at 7:59

8 Answers 8


Occupancy seems like the natural word for what you ask, per oxforddictionaries:

the proportion of accommodations occupied or in use

(Edit: The most applicable sense of it in wiktionary is

The act of occupying, the state of being occupied or the state of being an occupant or tenant

which is rather less satisfactory than the definition shown first.)

Here are some other possibilities: population, headcount, crowd size, census, number, complement, company, fraction. A rarely used term is filledness. Of all these, headcount perhaps fits best into your example, but others fit with minor rewording:

The elevator's headcount is six at the moment.
Those in the elevator number six at the moment.
Those in the elevator are six in number.
The elevator party is six in number.
There are six persons in the elevator.

Comment: As the last of those examples illustrates, one doesn't need a special word (besides in) and you may need to revise your question if that being so is unacceptable for some reason.

  • 2
    Occupancy also pertains to the proportion in use, as in the occupancy rate of hotels or office space, so occupancy is the correct answer.
    – Gnawme
    Feb 20, 2012 at 7:53
  • @Gnawme - Thanks - have updated answer with that link Feb 20, 2012 at 8:04
  • 1
    Those sound fine as long as the object is being filled with people, but not as good for inanimate filling. It would be strange to talk about the occupancy of a fuel tank. Feb 20, 2012 at 14:03
  • @Nate - I agree, one would say "The tank is one-third full" or "The 70-liter tank has 23 liters in it" rather than using odd forms like "The tank's occupancy percent is 33" or "The tank's current literage is 23" as imposed by the original question. Feb 20, 2012 at 15:55
  • 2
    I think occupancy normally only works when the "contents of the container" can reasonably be described as occupants. If you're talking about how much liquid is in a glass, or how much rubbish is in a trash-bin, you'd be better off with fullness. Feb 20, 2012 at 17:14

I can't think of a word that would fit in, "The carton's X is 7 eggs." I think the conventional way to say this would be, "The carton contains 7 eggs" or "The carton has 7 eggs in it". If it's something that normally starts out full and is used up -- like an egg carton -- you might say "The carton has 7 eggs remaining" or "... 7 eggs left."

If you're thinking in percentages, it's common to say "The bottle is 35% full" or "The box is half full."

You could, of course, dig out some obscure word or invent a word, but as tchrist notes, it's usually better to use ordinary language even if it is somewhat less concise. I avoid using obscure words or attaching specialized meaning to a word unless I need to use it a lot so it's worth the effort of explaining it.


For inanimate objects, I would suggest contents; the carton's current contents is 4 eggs (out of 6)

  • Contents is? Jan 12, 2015 at 0:22
  • @EdwinAshworth: A good point. My own feeling is that contents is sometimes singular and sometimes plural; nobody would say * "the contents are 2lb, the capacity 3lb." surely? And yes, after consideration I prefer is here, though others may differ. Jan 12, 2015 at 12:07
  • I've seen 'contents' classed as 'always taking plural concord'; these anomalies (the jury / Government / team / army is or are, but police are) exist. I'd rephrase here. If I may dare quote a TEFL source {Icaltefl}: clothes, contents, earnings, goods, riches, savings, thanks, troops: These nouns take a plural verb. >> Jan 12, 2015 at 16:40
  • ... These nouns are all labelled non-count (grammatically; one can count items of clothing, of course), but take plural agreement. 'A thank you is unnecessary' is not very dissimilar to 'Thanks are unnecessary', but both somewhat illogically require different agreement. Jan 12, 2015 at 16:42
  • @EdwinAshworth: oversimplified to the point of absurdity. Troops is plural because the singular is soldier: twenty troops is not uncommon. Savings seems to have different rules either side of the Atlantic, as other questions here attest. A good is certainly used in economics. Etc. And if a label read "Contents: 1 pill" would you really say the contents are one pill? What about "Contents: 1 ounce"? Jan 12, 2015 at 17:14

“Did you fill it? Sure. Then how full is it now? I filled it up most of the way. It's 80% full. How much does it hold? Its fullness is at 80% so it holds 25% more than it does now. It held nothing when I started.”

I rather like full and hold, and their related forms. That way you stay within the same close group of related words.

Strong Anglo-Saxon words. Simple words. Short, sharp words.

Words which everybody knows what mean without having to go dusting off their moldly Latin dictionary to see how just full tonight’s plenilune really is. 🌛

  • Mostly agree, except ... No one says "It's fullness is 80%" More likely "It is 80% full".
    – Jay
    Feb 24, 2012 at 22:03

Tally: (n)a number of objects used as a unit of computation; (v)the act of counting -TFD

If an elevator's current number of occupants is six, the elevator's current tally is six.

An egg carton currently holds 7 eggs. The carton's tally is 7 eggs.

That tallies to just one extra egg if everyone takes one.


You could use "population" even for inanimate objects, but it does feel a bit anthropomorphic.


Capacity is the word I would use to describe the utmost something could be filled.

  • Hello, David. Please feel welcome. But I have to point out that what you say doesn't answer the question here. Jan 12, 2015 at 0:19

I think "count" fits best.

It's a good question, though, I was going to say "level", until you discretized it.

"This carton's count is 7 eggs."

"This elevator has a capacity of 20 persons, its current count is six."

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