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verb (used without object), ex·pec·to·rat·ed, ex·pec·to·rat·ing.
  1. to eject or expel matter, as phlegm, from the throat or lungs by coughing or hawking and spitting; spit.
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verb (used with object), ex·pec·to·rat·ed, ex·pec·to·rat·ing.
  1. to eject or expel (matter) in this way.
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Origin of expectorate

1595–1605; < Latin expectorātus (past participle of expectorāre to expel from the breast), equivalent to ex- ex-1 + pector- (stem of pectus) breast + -ātus -ate1
Related formsex·pec·to·ra·tor, nounun·ex·pec·to·rat·ed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for expectorate

Historical Examples

  • So absorbed was his attention that he even forgot to expectorate.

    Original Short Stories of Maupassant, Volume 1

    Guy de Maupassant

  • It is barbarous to expectorate in the temple of your faith, but that doubtless is an extreme case.

    Italian Hours

    Henry James

  • The throat is dry and irritated, and there is a constant desire to expectorate.

  • So, if I have,—why the devil don't you say it at once, and expectorate your spleen?

  • Seller (falls into a brown study, from which he at length emerges to tap the nearest ewe on the forehead and expectorate).

British Dictionary definitions for expectorate


  1. to cough up and spit out (sputum from the respiratory passages)
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Derived Formsexpectoration, nounexpectorator, noun

Word Origin

C17: from Latin expectorāre, literally: to drive from the breast, expel, from pectus breast
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

Word Origin and History for expectorate


c.1600, "to clear out the chest or lungs," from Latin expectoratus, past participle of expectorare "scorn, expel from the mind," literally "make a clean breast," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + pectus (genitive pectoris) "breast" (see pectoral (adj.)). Use as a euphemism for "spit" is first recorded 1827. Original sense in expectorant. Related: Expectorated; expectorating.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

expectorate in Medicine


  1. To eject saliva, mucus, or other body fluid from the mouth; spit.
  2. To clear out the chest and lungs by coughing up and spitting out matter.
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Related formsex•pec′to•ration n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.