I’m looking for a term or phrase that is the inverse equivalent to the action of “topping-off”, like a gas tank, but meaning “to completely empty.” Not a steady state (empty, depleted), but more a phrase implying readiness.

Example: If going for a long drive and you want to tell your girls to go to the bathroom first (even if they don’t have to.)

Something that means exactly the inverse of “topping-off”.

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    One of the problems is that topping (off) can mean either to add a top (provisional) or to remove a top (privative). E.g, They're topping off the trees by the garage today vs They're topping off the gas tank by the garage today_. – John Lawler Jan 1 '13 at 0:50
  • This may simply be a regionalism, but do you "top-off" or "top-up" a fuel reservoir when you add a small amount? Topping-off is also an alternative for "topping-out" a building when the final roof beam is added. Any antonym would relate to demolition. – Fortiter Jan 1 '13 at 0:56
  • On a side note, a potentially clearer alternative to "topping-off" might be "brimming up" (see: "brim" as a verb)[google.com/#hl=en&q=brim&tbs=dfn:1]. I believe this is generally understood amongst most or all of the English dialects universally. – Alexander Jan 1 '13 at 1:41
  • <i>"Brimming up"\</i>? This reminds me of the great Guinness pour mantra: Make it just <b>“proud of the rim”</b> (aka surface tension - aka convex meniscus.) Which reminds me of Ireland’s patron saint of arch enemies: Cromwell, and his maxim (here an antonym for top-off) “Keep your powder dry.” (It is after all a ..powder room.) Or perhaps “Keep your knickers dry.” I digress. – ipso Jan 1 '13 at 3:06
  • How come your HTML tags work and mine don't? ^ – ipso Jan 1 '13 at 3:08

I would think drain would work, from OED –

drain, n

The act of draining or drawing off;

That which is drained or drawn off;

  • Drain. ? Hmm. Squeeze dry (a wash cloth, or toothpaste) Last drop (lemon, or a glass of water) “Drain out“ “Drain off“ “Drain empty“ “Drain it“ “Drain it dry“ “Drain it girls, drain it dry! We’re headin’ for San Diego!” Thanks! – ipso Jan 1 '13 at 0:55

The opposite of topping-off should logically be bottoming-out.

And is.


I would suggest run dry, as in:

I ran the tank dry, and had to walk more than a mile to the gas station.

(This might not work for the bladder example in your question, but it could work for other contexts, such as wells or fuel tanks. That's the expression used in Steps 3 & 4 of these winterizing instructions.)

  • You obviously understood his bladder example – I didn't! – spiceyokooko Dec 31 '12 at 23:57
  • @spiceyokooko: insofar as bladders go, I think drain is a better fit than run dry, but I'd probably just use empty for that context. :^) – J.R. Jan 1 '13 at 0:02
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    I don't think his example was a particularly good one to demonstrate the word he was looking for. Run dry is perfect in the context of the reverse of topping up. – spiceyokooko Jan 1 '13 at 0:05
  • @spicey: While we're on the topic, I'll just mention this: usually, it's better to have the bladder drained or run dry (particularly before a long trip). However, there are some exceptions where it's better to be topped up. – J.R. Jan 1 '13 at 0:12
  • Especially on New Years Eve :) – spiceyokooko Jan 1 '13 at 0:13

Although you stated:

"Not a steady state (empty, depleted), but more a phrase implying readiness."

I think that empty would still be valid if used as a verb.

Using your example of "If going for a long drive and you want to tell your girls to go to the bathroom first (even if they don’t have to.)", you could say something along the lines of "Make sure to empty your bladders before we leave.", thus implying the necessary action.

  • “Empty your bladders” is exacting, I’ll give you that. Perhaps a bit ..dry. (“Daddy – what’s a bladder?”) :) – ipso Jan 1 '13 at 3:03

Drain the dregs, to build off of @spicyokooko.

  • Always include some context and cite references. – Kris Jan 1 '13 at 13:00

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