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noun Biochemistry.
  1. any of a group of amorphous glycosides of terpenes and steroids, occurring in many plants, characterized by an ability to form emulsions and to foam in aqueous solutions, and used as detergents.

Origin of saponin

1825–35; < French saponine < Latin sāpōn- (stem of sāpō) soap + French -ine -in2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for saponin

Historical Examples

  • The list42 of plants in which saponin has been discovered is given in the note.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 623, December 10, 1887


  • It may be readily distinguished from saponin by treating a watery solution with sulphuric or hydrochloric acid.

  • The systolic stillness of the heart is also removed by substances which paralyse the heart, as delphinin, saponin, and apomorphin.

  • The saponin separated from Saponaria, and from the corn cockle will be here described.

  • A solution of saponin exposed to the air gets turbid, and develops carbon dioxide; not unfrequently the solution becomes mouldy.

British Dictionary definitions for saponin


  1. any of a group of plant glycosides with a steroid structure that foam when shaken and are used in detergents

Word Origin

C19: from French saponine, from Latin sāpō soap
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

saponin in Medicine


(săpə-nĭn, sə-pō-)
  1. Any of various plant glucosides that form soapy lathers when mixed and agitated with water, used in detergents, foaming agents, and emulsifiers.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

saponin in Science


[săpə-nĭn, sə-pō-]
  1. Any of various plant glucosides that form soapy lathers when mixed and agitated with water. They are used in detergents, foaming agents, and emulsifiers. Some saponins, such as digitalis, affect the heart and have been used as medicines and arrow poisons by indigenous peoples of Africa and South America.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.