Drinking is the act of ingesting water or other liquids into the body through the mouth, proboscis, or elsewhere. Humans drink by swallowing, completed by peristalsis in the esophagus. The physiological processes of drinking vary widely among other animals.

Statue of a man drinking
The act of drinking portrayed in statuary—the figure employs a traditional waterskin

Most animals drink water to maintain bodily hydration, although many can survive on the water gained from their food. Water is required for many physiological processes. Both inadequate and (less commonly) excessive water intake are associated with health problems.

Methods of drinkingEdit

In humansEdit

When a liquid enters a human mouth, the swallowing process is completed by peristalsis which delivers the liquid through the esophagus to the stomach; much of the activity is abetted by gravity. The liquid may be poured from the hands or drinkware may be used as vessels. Drinking can also be performed by acts of inhalation, typically when imbibing hot liquids or drinking from a spoon. Infants employ a method of suction wherein the lips are pressed tight around a source, as in breastfeeding: a combination of breath and tongue movement creates a vacuum which draws in liquid.[1]

In other land mammalsEdit

Slow motion video of a cat lapping water
A Jack Russell Terrier takes a drink of water.

By necessity, terrestrial animals in captivity become accustomed to drinking water, but most free-roaming animals stay hydrated through the fluids and moisture in fresh food,[2] and learn to actively seek foods with high fluid content.[3] When conditions impel them to drink from bodies of water, the methods and motions differ greatly among species.[4]

Cats, canines, and ruminants all lower the neck and lap in water with their powerful tongues.[4] Cats and canines lap up water with the tongue in a spoon-like shape.[5] Canines lap water by scooping it into their mouth with a tongue which has taken the shape of a ladle. However, with cats, only the tip of their tongue (which is smooth) touches the water, and then the cat quickly pulls its tongue back into its mouth which soon closes; this results in a column of liquid being pulled into the cat's mouth, which is then secured by its mouth closing.[6] Ruminants and most other herbivores partially submerge the tip of the mouth in order to draw in water by means of a plunging action with the tongue held straight.[7] Cats drink at a significantly slower pace than ruminants, who face greater natural predation hazards.[4]

Many desert animals do not drink even if water becomes available, but rely on eating succulent plants.[4] In cold and frozen environments, some animals like hares, tree squirrels, and bighorn sheep resort to consuming snow and icicles.[8] In savannas, the drinking method of giraffes has been a source of speculation for its apparent defiance of gravity; the most recent theory contemplates the animal's long neck functions like a plunger pump.[9] Uniquely, elephants draw water into their trunks and squirt it into their mouths.[4]

In birdsEdit

Most birds scoop or draw water into the buccal areas of their bills, raising and tilting their heads back to drink. An exception is the common pigeon which can suck in water directly by inhalation.[4]

Drinking can be observed in many insect species.[4]

In insectsEdit

Most insects obtain adequate water from their food: When dehydrated from a lack of moist food, however, many species will drink from standing water.[10] Additionally, all terrestrial insects constantly absorb a certain amount of the air's humidity through their cuticles.[10] Some desert insects, such as Onymacris unguicularis, have evolved to drink substantially from nighttime fog.[10]

In marine lifeEdit

Amphibians and aquatic animals which live in freshwater do not need to drink: they absorb water steadily through the skin by osmosis.[4][11] Saltwater fish, however, drink through the mouth as they swim, and purge the excess salt through the gills.[11] Saltwater fishes do drink plenty of water and excrete a small volume of concentrated urine.

Hydration and dehydrationEdit

Like nearly all other life forms, humans require water for tissue hydration. Lack of hydration causes thirst, a desire to drink which is regulated by the hypothalamus in response to subtle changes in the body's electrolyte levels and blood volume. A decline in total body water is called dehydration and will eventually lead to death by hypernatremia. Methods used in the management of dehydration include assisted drinking or oral rehydration therapy.

An overconsumption of water can lead to water intoxication, which can dangerously dilute the concentration of salts in the body. Overhydration sometimes occurs among athletes and outdoor laborers, but it can also be a sign of disease or damage to the hypothalamus. A persistent desire to drink inordinate quantities of water is a psychological condition termed polydipsia. It is often accompanied by polyuria and may itself be a symptom of Diabetes mellitus or Diabetes insipidus.[12]

Human water requirementsEdit

Astronaut Thomas Reiter during Expedition 14 drinking water on the International Space Station

A daily intake of water is required for the normal physiological functioning of the human body. The USDA recommends a daily intake of total water: not necessarily by drinking but by consumption of water contained in other beverages and foods. The recommended intake is 3.7 liters (appx. 1 gallon) per day for an adult male, and 2.7 liters (appx. 0.75 gallon) for an adult female.[13] Other sources, however, claim that a high intake of fresh drinking water, separate and distinct from other sources of moisture, is necessary for good health – eight servings per day of eight fluid ounces (1.8 liters, or 0.5 gallon) is the amount recommended by many nutritionists,[14] although there is no scientific evidence supporting this recommendation.[15][16]

Alcoholic beveragesEdit

The term “drinking” is often used metonymically for the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Most cultures throughout history have incorporated some number of the wide variety of "strong drinks" into their meals, celebrations, ceremonies, toasts and other occasions.[17] Evidence of fermented drinks in human culture goes back as early as the Neolithic Period,[18] and the first pictorial evidence can be found in Egypt around 4,000 BC.[19]

Alcohol consumption has developed into a variety of well-established drinking cultures around the world. Despite its popularity, alcohol consumption poses significant health risks. Alcohol abuse and the addiction of alcoholism are common maladies in developed countries worldwide.[20] A high rate of consumption can also lead to cirrhosis, gastritis, gout, pancreatitis, hypertension, various forms of cancer, and numerous other illnesses.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Flint, pp. 137–138.
  2. ^ Mayer, p. 59.
  3. ^ Grove JC, Gray LA, La Santa Medina N, Sivakumar N, Ahn JS, Corpuz TV, Berke JD, Kreitzer AC, Knight ZA (July 2022). "Dopamine subsystems that track internal states". Nature. doi:10.1038/s41586-022-04954-0. PMID 35831501.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Broom, p. 105.
  5. ^ Smith, p. 238.
  6. ^ "Cats' Tongues Employ Tricky Physics". 2010-11-12.
  7. ^ Smith, p. 237.
  8. ^ Mayer, p. 54.
  9. ^ "How do Giraffes Drink Water?". February 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Chapman, R. F. (2012). Simpson, S. J.; Douglas, A. E. (eds.). The Insects: Structure and Function (5 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 577. ISBN 978-1107310452.
  11. ^ a b Curtis, p. 569.
  12. ^ Provan, p. 129.
  13. ^ National Academy of Sciences. "Dietary Guidance". USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center. United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on 29 April 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2013. Redirects to the NAS report, Dietary Reference Intakes: Electrolytes and Water (PDF) {{cite web}}: External link in |quote= (help)
  14. ^ Greenhalgh, Alison (2001). "Healthy living – Water". BBC Health. BBC. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  15. ^ Valtin, Heinz; Gorman, Sheila A. (2012). "Drink at least eight glasses of water a day: Really? Is there scientific evidence for "8 × 8"?". American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 283 (5): R993–R1004. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00365.2002. PMID 12376390.
  16. ^ Negoianu, Dan; Goldfarb, Stanley (2008). "Just Add Water". Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. ASN. 19 (6): 1041–1043. doi:10.1681/ASN.2008030274. PMID 18385417.
  17. ^ Gately, pp. 1–14.
  18. ^ Patrick, Clarence Hodges. Alcohol, Culture, and Society. AMS Press, 1952, p. 13.
  19. ^ Hanson, David. "Ancient Period". History of Alcohol and Drinking around the World. State University of New York. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  20. ^ "Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health" (PDF). World Health Organization. World Health Organization. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  21. ^ Fiebach, p. 387.


External linksEdit