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[suh-lahy-vuh] /səˈlaɪ və/
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
1670-80; < Latin salīva
Related forms
[sal-uh-ver-ee] /ˈsæl əˌvɛr i/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for saliva
  • For some people, the inability to produce the proper amount of saliva is simply a nuisance.
  • The saliva on a smoked cigarette or the perspiration on a baseball cap may be enough.
  • But the animal's saliva may one day give some stroke sufferers a better chance of survival.
  • Then a technician draws some blood, gathers a saliva sample, and takes a punch of skin.
  • Some shrews and other insectivores have toxic saliva.
  • The more saliva she pours down one tube in her proboscis, the faster she can suck up blood through another.
  • For three days participants swabbed their mouths to collect cortisol-containing saliva.
  • The giant anteater can cover its tongue with a sticky saliva to help it get ants.
  • Their saliva contains anti-bacterial chemicals which maintain sterility in the site.
  • Chewing on anything at all can help since it stimulates saliva production.
British Dictionary definitions for saliva


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
Derived Forms
salivary (səˈlaɪvərɪ; ˈsælɪvərɪ) adjective
Word Origin
C17: from Latin, of obscure origin
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
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Word Origin and History for saliva

early 15c., from Middle French salive, from Latin saliva "spittle," of unknown origin (perhaps, as Tucker suggests, somehow derived from the base of sallow (adj.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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saliva in Medicine

saliva sa·li·va (sə-lī'və)
The watery mixture of secretions from the salivary and oral mucous glands that lubricates chewed food, moistens the oral walls, and contains ptyalin.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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saliva in Science
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 © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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saliva in Culture
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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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