• synonyms


verb (used with object), sa·pon·i·fied, sa·pon·i·fy·ing.
  1. to convert (a fat) into soap by treating with an alkali.
  2. to decompose (any ester), forming the corresponding alcohol and acid or salt.
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verb (used without object), sa·pon·i·fied, sa·pon·i·fy·ing.
  1. to become converted into soap.
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Origin of saponify

1815–25; < Latin sāpōn- (stem of sāpō) soap + -ify
Related formssa·pon·i·fi·a·ble, adjectivesa·pon·i·fi·ca·tion, nounsa·pon·i·fi·er, nounnon·sa·pon·i·fi·a·ble, adjectivenon·sa·pon·i·fi·ca·tion, nounun·sa·pon·i·fi·a·ble, adjectiveun·sa·pon·i·fied, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unsaponifiable

Historical Examples

  • Unsaponifiable matter is present in rosin in varying amounts.

    The Handbook of Soap Manufacture

    W. H. Simmons

  • Unsaponifiable matter, determination of by standard method, 176.

    Soap-Making Manual

    E. G. Thomssen

  • This fat is somewhat tough and sticky, and the amount of unsaponifiable matter present is sometimes considerable.

  • The residue, dried in the oven at 100° C. until constant, is the "unsaponifiable matter," which is calculated to per cent.

  • Besides these it is often necessary to determine insoluble matter, glycerine, unsaponifiable matter, rosin and sugar.

    Soap-Making Manual

    E. G. Thomssen

British Dictionary definitions for unsaponifiable


verb -fies, -fying or -fied chem
  1. to undergo or cause to undergo a process in which a fat is converted into a soap by treatment with alkali
  2. 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
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Derived Formssaponifiable, adjectivesaponifier, nounsaponification, noun

Word Origin

C19: from French saponifier, 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

Word Origin and History for unsaponifiable



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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

unsaponifiable in Medicine


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