[ ih-muhl-shuhn ]
/ ɪˈmʌl ʃən /
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See synonyms for: emulsion / emulsive on Thesaurus.com

Physical Chemistry. any colloidal suspension of a liquid in another liquid.
such a suspension used in cosmetics.
Pharmacology. a liquid preparation consisting of two completely immiscible liquids, one of which, as minute globules coated by a gum or other mucilaginous substance, is dispersed throughout the other: used as a means of making a medicine palatable.
Photography. a composition sensitive to some or all of the actinic rays of light, consisting of one or more of the silver halides suspended in gelatin, applied in a thin layer to one surface of a film or the like.
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Origin of emulsion

1605–15; <New Latin ēmulsiōn- (stem of ēmulsiō), equivalent to Latin ēmuls(us) milked out (ē-e-1 + mulsus, past participle of mulgēre to milk) + -iōn--ion


e·mul·sive, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does emulsion mean?

An emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that don’t fully combine. An emulsion may look like a single liquid, but it’s made up of particles of one liquid distributed throughout another liquid.

For example, if you whisk together oil and water, it forms an emulsion in which small droplets of oil are suspended in the water, but the two liquids aren’t fully blended together (as they would be if you stirred together water and vinegar, for example).

In technical chemistry terms, an emulsion is a colloidal suspension in which the substances mixed together are both liquids. Both colloids and suspensions involve particles of one substance distributed in another without being dissolved.

The word emulsion is used in a variety of contexts, including pharmacology, cooking, and photography.

In cooking, emulsions are made by blending two liquids or liquid-like ingredients into a smooth consistency. Salad dressings called vinaigrettes are typically emulsions of oil and vinegar.

The word emulsion is used in a more specific way in photography to refer to a light-sensitive coating (consisting of a chemical suspended in gelatine) that’s applied to paper or film.

The verb emulsify means to form an emulsion.

Example: To properly make an emulsion of oil and vinegar, you have to whisk very hard to separate the oil into tiny droplets, or else the two liquids will separate.

Where does emulsion come from?

The first records of the word emulsion come from the early 1600s. It ultimately comes from the Latin emulsus, meaning “milked out,” from the Latin verb mulgēre, “to milk.”

A less common meaning of emulsion is “any liquid resembling milk.” We don’t usually think of milk as an emulsion, but it’s actually an emulsion of water and milk fat. The reason we don’t notice is because the fat particles have been distributed equally through the process of homogenization. Milk that is sold with the original amount of fat (or cream) is often called whole milk. Milk that has had some of this cream removed is called skim milk. 

Emulsions have all kinds of practical applications. Many medications are emulsions of an oily medicine that has been mixed into another liquid. Emulsion paint consists of pigment particles suspended in water. In cooking, emulsifying ingredients allows them to be combined into a single sauce. Sometimes, an emulsion “breaks”—meaning the two substances separate. An emulsifier is an ingredient added to an emulsion to help keep it stable.

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What are some other forms related to emulsion?

What are some words that share a root or word element with emulsion

What are some words that often get used in discussing emulsion?

How is emulsion used in real life?

The word emulsion is commonly used in cooking, but emulsions have applications in many fields.



Try using emulsion!

True or False? 

An emulsion can consist of a liquid and a gas.

How to use emulsion in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for emulsion

/ (ɪˈmʌlʃən) /

photog a light-sensitive coating on a base, such as paper or film, consisting of fine grains of silver bromide suspended in gelatine
chem a colloid in which both phases are liquidsan oil-in-water emulsion
Also called: emulsion paint a type of paint in which the pigment is suspended in a vehicle, usually a synthetic resin, that is dispersed in water as an emulsion. It usually gives a mat finish
pharmacol a mixture in which an oily medicine is dispersed in another liquid
any liquid resembling milk

Derived forms of emulsion

emulsive, adjective

Word Origin for emulsion

C17: from New Latin ēmulsiō, from Latin ēmulsus milked out, from ēmulgēre to milk out, drain out, from mulgēre to milk
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

Scientific definitions for emulsion

[ ĭ-mŭlshən ]

A suspension of tiny droplets of one liquid in a second liquid. By making an emulsion, one can mix two liquids that ordinarily do not mix well, such as oil and water. Compare aerosol foam.

Other words from emulsion

emulsify verb
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.