“Drinking Fountain” vs. “Water Fountain” vs. “Bubbler”: Are They Synonyms?

You know that thing that provides access to drinking water in places like government buildings, schools, and parks? There are many different designs for it, but it generally works by ejecting a jet of water that can be drunk from directly.

So what is the correct name for this machine. And, more importantly, does the name change depending on where you live?

Let’s dig in a little deeper to find out!

Who says drinking fountain?

A drinking fountain is “a device that ejects a fountainlike stream of water that can be drunk from without a cup.”

The first records of the term drinking fountain come from the mid-1800s.

The west coast of the US is generally where the term drinking fountain sees popularity in usage.

Drink up even more facts on the term drinking fountain at our article for the term here!

Who says water fountain?

A water fountain is …. just like a drinking fountain, but is defined as “a drinking fountain, water cooler, or other apparatus supplying drinking water.

The term water fountain should not be confused with the kind of fountain that’s mainly for decoration, such as in city plazas, though of course such fountains also use water (but not for drinking).

The first records of the term water fountain in reference to a drinking fountain come from around the 1700s.

People who live in the south or northeast parts of the United States tend to say water fountain most often.

Have we whet your appetite to know more? If so, visit our article on water fountain!

Who says bubbler?

A bubbler is … you guessed it, the same as a water fountain or drinking fountain. It is formally defined as “a drinking fountain that spouts water.

The word bubbler is typically only used this way in a few areas of the US, including Wisconsin and parts of New England. Example: The line to get a drink from the bubbler at the Sox game was wicked long.

Bubbler is also used in other contexts to refer to a device that sends gas bubbles through a liquid. Such equipment may be used in chemistry experiments, for example. They’re sometimes called gas bubblers. 

An irrigation bubbler is a device used to water the soil around tree roots, typically as part of an irrigation system in an orchard.

The first records of the word bubbler come from the early 1700s, but it wasn’t used in reference to a water fountain until much later.

As is the case with many other regional terms, saying bubbler when referring to a water fountain is often a clue to where someone lives or grew up. However, the word bubbler is also used in other specific contexts that don’t vary by region.

Fun fact: there are a select group of people who may say water bubbler most often to describe this drinking apparatus.

Check out even more facts about bubblers in our article for the word here!

WATCH: How Do You Say These Words In Your Part Of The Country?

So are these terms synonyms?

Yes! They are different words for the same thing in American English. But, because their use varies by what region of the country you are in, they are also what are called regionalisms, or “a speech form, expression, custom, or other feature peculiar to or characteristic of a particular area.

Regionalisms abound in English—and, of course, other languages—because language is shaped by the needs, experiences, and culture of where people live even when they speak the same tongue. This results in distinct pronunciations, usages, words, and other linguistic features that contribute to a person’s dialect.


Looking for something else to satisfy your thirst for knowledge? Start with our article on whether nutritional and healthy are synonyms.

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