I'm looking for a word that describes the film left behind when a fluid touches a surface.

For example:

  • A blood drop runs down a wall -> it leaves a ...

  • A puddle drying-out leaves a ...

  • Oil that leaks from a barrel and sinks in the ground leaves a ...

The words I've came up with are: film, layer, residue (describes it best, but sound wrong), smear, trace, ...


  • The word should be neutral/scientific
  • Be applicable for all kinds of fluids and invariant to size
  • Ideally, it should be specific to fluids ("layer" is too general - "layer of a cake")
  • 3
    Why does residue sound wrong? residue (n.): a small amount of something that remains after the main part has gone or been taken or used. Sounds acceptable to me. P.S. I looked up residue in the thesaurus, and found this cool word: residuum (n.) technical : a substance or thing that remains or is left behind, in particular, a chemical residue. (I wouldn't necessarily recommend that word for your purposes, but I might recommend the thesaurus for more good candidates.) – J.R. Jun 29 '12 at 10:08
  • I'm searching for an hour on thesaurus.com :-) residue sounds too awkward for my taste. At the moment I'm more favoring "layer", although it is not specific to fluids :/ – Fabian Jun 29 '12 at 10:17
  • Good info; good update – thanks. Hopefully you'll get some good candidates. – J.R. Jun 29 '12 at 10:42

Stain is the first thing that comes to my mind.

  • Stain has a too negative connotation. I need a word that is descriptive/neutral or on the positive side (it is for a scientific paper). Also, it should be applicable to larger areas (like an oil spill). Stains are in my mind rather small mishaps. – Fabian Jun 29 '12 at 10:06
  • 5
    @Fabian, that's good information – but it's also information that you probably should have included in your original question. If you don't do an adequate job of describing what you're looking for, you're bound to get plenty of ill-fitting candidates (no fault of the answerers). I'd recommend editing the question with some additional details, lest this become a guessing game. – J.R. Jun 29 '12 at 10:11

The word deposit, in its sense "Anything left behind on a surface", is used in some "coffee ring effect" articles, as for example near the middle of an mpg.de webpage called "Dynamics of drying colloidal dispersions". That webpage also uses previously-mentioned terms residue and stain.

All of residue, stain, and deposit work for your first two examples (blood or puddles) but for the third (oil in ground) stain and deposit don't work. To your sample words (film, layer, residue, smear, trace) you might add contaminant, concentration, vestige, remnant, and DNAPL.


Trace was what I was looking for. Thanks at WLPhoenix


A coating is "a layer of any substance spread over a surface" or "a thin layer covering something"

It works on your last example:

• Oil that leaks from a barrel and sinks in the ground leaves a coating.

I think coating can apply to liquids, and it is a neutral word.


A trail should suit your requirement of neutrality.

  • A blood drop runs down a wall, leaving a trail.
  • Oil that leaks from a barrel and sinks in the ground, leaving a trail.

With your second sentence, trail is less natural-sounding, but given Wordweb's definition of a trail as "a track or mark left by something that has passed", I guess it should be rather OK.

  • 1
    Trace is another word with a similar meaning. – WLPhoenix Jul 11 '12 at 2:46

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