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[suh-pon-uh-fahy] /səˈpɒn əˌfaɪ/ Chemistry
verb (used with object), saponified, saponifying.
to convert (a fat) into soap by treating with an alkali.
to decompose (any ester), forming the corresponding alcohol and acid or salt.
verb (used without object), saponified, saponifying.
to become converted into soap.
Origin of saponify
1815-25; < Latin sāpōn- (stem of sāpō) soap + -ify
Related forms
saponifiable, adjective
saponification, noun
saponifier, noun
nonsaponifiable, adjective
nonsaponification, noun
unsaponifiable, adjective
unsaponified, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for saponify
Historical Examples
  • Next to olive oil, this species is the most easy to saponify.

  • But to simplify the operation, he preferred to saponify the fat by means of lime.

    The Mysterious Island Jules Verne
  • This oil closely resembles cocoa-nut and palm-nut oils and is stated to saponify readily and yield a soap free from odour.

  • Caustic soda is then added to saponify the fat not converted by the lime saponification.

    Soap-Making Manual E. G. Thomssen
  • First saponify 100 parts house grease and 100 parts ordinary grease and make a run soap.

    Soap-Making Manual E. G. Thomssen
  • In any method it is necessary to saponify or emulsify the grease on the grain, or difficulties occur in dyeing and finishing.

    Animal Proteins Hugh Garner Bennett
  • They also saponify and emulsify the grease, and it is obvious, therefore, that liming can be carried too far.

    Animal Proteins Hugh Garner Bennett
  • They are then placed in fairly strong limes for two or three days to swell the fibres and saponify the grease.

    Leather K. J. Adcock
British Dictionary definitions for saponify


verb (chem) -fies, -fying, -fied
to undergo or cause to undergo a process in which a fat is converted into a soap by treatment with alkali
to undergo or cause to undergo a reaction in which an ester is hydrolysed to an acid and an alcohol as a result of treatment with an alkali
Derived Forms
saponifiable, adjective
saponifier, noun
saponification, noun
Word Origin
C19: from French saponifier, from Latin sāpōsoap
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for saponify

1821, from French saponifier (see saponification). Related: Saponified; saponifying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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saponify in Medicine

saponify sa·pon·i·fy (sə-pŏn'ə-fī')
v. sa·pon·i·fied, sa·pon·i·fy·ing, sa·pon·i·fies
To undergo saponification.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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