Abstract To characterize proximal and distal stomach emptying in functional dyspepsia (FD) and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Eighty-three patients underwent gastric emptying (GE) scintigraphy and symptom scoring for the evaluation of upper gastrointestinal symptoms and were divided into three groups: FD (n = 25), GORD (n = 20) and FD + GORD (n = 38). Total, proximal and distal gastric retention were determined scintigraphically and compared with normal controls. Delayed total GE was observed in each subgroup: FD (56%), GORD (45%) and FD + GORD (55%). Greater proximal gastric retention was observed after meal ingestion in GORD compared to FD. Greater distal gastric retention was observed in FD and FD + GORD but it was only mild in GORD. Nausea, vomiting, early satiety, distention and regurgitation were associated with proximal gastric retention whereas there was no symptom associated with distal gastric retention. Multiple regression demonstrated total gastric retention at 30 min and 1 h was positively correlated with regurgitation whereas early proximal gastric retention was positively correlated with regurgitation and negatively correlated with nausea. Selective abnormalities of proximal and distal stomach emptying were demonstrated in GORD and FD. GORD and FD symptoms were associated with proximal gastric retention suggesting that proximal stomach motor function may be important in the pathogenesis of symptoms associated with these disorders.