Depending on where you go in the world, some people will refer to a carbonated beverage as "soda" while others choose to use the term "pop." For example, "Can I get you a soda" vs. "Can I get you a pop." I assume they both came from "soda pop" and were shortened at some point.

My question is if one is considered more correct or if they are both on equal footing? Also, are there certain parts of the US where it is just incorrect to use one or the other?

  • 11
    There's no country outside the USA that speaks English ?
    – mP01
    Apr 27, 2011 at 11:34
  • My experience has been that "soda" is a counting noun but "pop" is a mass noun. "A pop" sounds weird to me (and I live in a "pop" region). Jul 3, 2011 at 21:45
  • @mP01: I have re-tagged the question accordingly, as [american-english]. After all, everyone is free to limit his questions on this site only to a certain variety of English.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 15, 2011 at 19:52
  • @MonicaCellio - ??? "What do you want to drink?" "I'll have a pop." Perfectly normal to hear that.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 25, 2015 at 1:45

9 Answers 9


It's completely regional. You will find, in addition to "soda" and "pop," such terms as "soft drink," "coke" and "tonic." Note that "coke" in this instance is used generically to indicate any fizzy soft drink.

"Do you want a coke?" "Sure, thanks." "OK, what kind? We have Sprite, Coke, Diet..."

Here's a map that breaks down some of the regional variation: Pop vs Soda Map

enter image description here

  • Origin of the map with some more stats popvssoda.com:2998
    – Mark
    Dec 18, 2010 at 15:14
  • I remember hearing "tonic" in Boston
    – GEdgar
    Jul 3, 2011 at 21:35
  • 1
    Great map. A map covering the whole English-speaking world would be better. Where I come from nobody says "pop" or "soda" or "coke". Jul 4, 2011 at 9:04
  • I've always called it a soda (being from Connecticut) unless I was up in New Hampshire visiting my grandparents; then it was called a 'tonic'.
    – Darwy
    Jul 15, 2011 at 22:50
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    @GEdgar: The word in Boston indeed used to be "tonic". Now, it's "soda", just like the rest of the Northeast. Nov 17, 2012 at 14:54

The preferred use of Soda/ Coke /Pop is a regional difference, but it is not an issue of correctness. That being said, using the non-preferred variant in a region can cause communications failures. Being from the south, I initially used Coke during trips north and occasionally ended up receiving Coca-Cola Classic when I was really look for a listing of available carbonated beverages.

If you're looking for a generic solution that will be understood, I believe soft drinks is the most common term on menus and the like, at least in the US, although certain non-carbonated beverages that I wouldn't describe as a soda may also fall under that heading, e.g. lemonade.

  • 3
    According to legend, Coca Cola has had to defend its trademark on "Coke" from becoming lost due to this common usage. So they'd send people around to restaurants to ask for a "Coke", and if they were offered something else, threaten them with a lawsuit.
    – Bob Murphy
    Dec 17, 2010 at 1:32
  • There are other regionalisms like this. The machine where you press a button and it squirts up water that you drink is variously called "water fountain", "water cooler", "bubbler", or "oasis" in different areas. In most of the US, if you want a sweet drink made of milk and ice cream run through a blender, you ask for a "milkshake" - except around Boston, where it's a "frappe".
    – Bob Murphy
    Dec 17, 2010 at 1:35
  • The idea that lemonade is "non-carbonated" sounds odd to my Irish ears. Lemonade (whether white or red) is definitely a fizzy drink over here.
    – TRiG
    Sep 5, 2011 at 23:52
  • @TRiG North American lemonade is more like what you would call lemon squash.
    – tchrist
    Nov 17, 2012 at 13:59
  • When one is in the south, how does one order a Coca-Cola unambiguously? "Coca-Cola"?
    – phoog
    Mar 20, 2016 at 13:07

According to phrasefinder

A soda in the US is called a pop in Canada.
In parts of the US it's called pop, not soda.
In some areas soda is also called tonic.

In the UK, we'd be most likely to refer to it as a fizzy drink.
Soda we reserve exclusively to refer to unflavoured carbonated water

  • 1
    I was going to say, we almost always call them either "fizzy drinks", or "soft drinks"; never ever pop, or soda. The only time soda is used for a drink in the UK is for soda water when used as a mixer.
    – Orbling
    Apr 27, 2011 at 4:32
  • 1
    Actually my auntie (in deepest Herefordshire) always distinguished between "pop" for fizzy drinks and "squash" for everything else, even if it wasn't something you diluted. Perhaps it's a generational thing as well as a regional thing.
    – user1579
    Apr 28, 2011 at 1:55
  • In Australia we call them "soft drinks" but on menus in places that also serve alcohol "soft drinks" will also refer to all non alcoholic beverages except perhaps hot drinks. Jul 4, 2011 at 9:08
  • @hippietrail If I recall correctly, that's because "soft drink" originated as an antonym of "hard liquor."
    – user867
    Oct 18, 2012 at 5:50
  • @user867: I believe that's the case yes. Oct 18, 2012 at 6:07

Unless you are in Scotland, at which point it is juice, even if it has never seen a fruit in its chemical factory sourced life.

  • 1
    I was told that in Scotland (or at least Dundee...) the name "diluting juice" is used to refer to fruit drinks such as Ribena or Kia-Ora that you dilute with water before drinking.
    – Richard Ev
    Apr 27, 2011 at 11:42
  • True indeed for Scotland, 'tis known everywhere else in the UK as "squash".
    – funkybro
    Jun 24, 2011 at 15:10
  • 1
    The drinks that come in a concentrate and must be diluted with water are in Australia everywhere called "cordial". Jul 4, 2011 at 9:05

Or Ginger! On the West Coast of Scotland they quite often call any fizzy drink ginger (even though they rarely drink ginger ale/beer...)


Here in the deep South (U.S.) it was always "coke" for all soft drinks. This may seem odd, but it's much like saying "Kleenex" for a tissue or "Xerox" to mean copy. But I rarely use the term generically any more nor do I hear it used that way much. I also do not hear the alternatives "soda" and certainly not "pop".

So how do we refer to them? Truth be told we just don't that often. There are so many different carbonated beverages available now we tend to say: "what would you like to drink, I have Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper...." Or even "would you like a Coke or something?" When forced to differentiate between carbonated and non-carbonated drinks I - and it seems many I know - are likely to say "soft drinks" or "carbonated drinks". You might hear someone say, "I quit drinking cokes because of my stomach" and all soft drinks are implied but they will primarily be drinkers of the brand Coke or else they wouldn't have said it that way. Times they are a-changin'


No one has yet mentioned the Irish word, mineral. This is not class-marked in Ireland. It's used in all areas, including the prerecorded bilingual announcements on trains about the contents of the food trolley. In my British/Irish idiolect, I'm more likely to say fizzy drink.


In the UK "soda" means carbonated water (Or a basic chemical). "Pop" used to be used to refer to fizzy drinks, but is dwindling away. If you hear it, it will be used to ask for lemonade as a mixer.

  • "Soda water" in the UK - which isn't around nearly as much as it used to be - is water containing bicarbonate of soda - held in a pressuriused vessel and squirted into a drink. People used to, and possibly still add it to whisky. But no one in Britain - in my estimation - calls a carbonated fizzy drink "soda".
    – WS2
    Jun 9, 2022 at 5:40

See the Pop vs. Soda Page, nicely created by Alan McConchie, for an interactive map to which native speakers can contribute.

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