[ suh-lahy-vuh ]
See synonyms for saliva on
  1. a viscid, watery fluid, secreted into the mouth by the salivary glands, that functions in the tasting, chewing, and swallowing of food, moistens the mouth, and starts the digestion of starches.

Origin of saliva

First recorded in 1670–80, saliva is from the Latin word salīva

Other words from saliva

  • sal·i·var·y [sal-uh-ver-ee], /ˈsæl əˌvɛr i/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use saliva in a sentence

  • Over time, these patients develop visibly enlarged salivary glands; they can also become malnourished.

    5 Hidden Eating Disorders | Danielle Friedman | May 2, 2010 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • These migrate to the salivary glands, and are carried into the blood of the person whom the mosquito bites.

    A Manual of Clinical Diagnosis | James Campbell Todd
  • In very small amounts alcohol stimulates the secretion of the salivary and gastric glands, and thus appears to aid in digestion.

    A Civic Biology | George William Hunter
  • This organ may perhaps be best compared with the simple salivary gland of Julus.

  • Less well developed than the salivary organs, they are often of a very complicated structure.

    The Insect World | Louis Figuier
  • Resting a moment, she proceeded to apply the salivary glue and adjust the twig, and then settled again to the task of sitting.

British Dictionary definitions for saliva


/ (səˈlaɪvə) /

  1. the secretion of salivary glands, consisting of a clear usually slightly acid aqueous fluid of variable composition. It moistens the oral cavity, prepares food for swallowing, and initiates the process of digestion: Related adjective: sialoid

Origin of saliva

C17: from Latin, of obscure origin

Derived forms of saliva

  • salivary (səˈlaɪvərɪ, ˈsælɪvərɪ), adjective

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 saliva


[ sə-lī ]

  1. The watery fluid that is secreted into the mouth by the salivary glands. In many animals, including humans, it contains the enzyme amylase, which breaks down carbohydrates. Saliva also contains mucus, which lubricates food for swallowing, and various proteins and mineral salts. Some special chemicals occur in the saliva of other animals, such as anticoagulants in the saliva of mosquitoes.

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

Cultural definitions for saliva


[ (suh-leye-vuh) ]

The fluid produced by the secretions of the salivary glands. Saliva contains enzymes that begin the digestion of starches. It also moistens the mouth tissues and makes food easier to chew and swallow.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.