AskDefine | Define saliva

Dictionary Definition

saliva n : a clear liquid secreted into the mouth by the salivary glands and mucous glands of the mouth; moistens the mouth and starts the digestion of starches [syn: spit, spittle]

User Contributed Dictionary



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  1. A clear, slightly alkaline liquid secreted into the mouth by the salivary glands and mucous glands, consisting of water, mucin, protein, and enzymes, It moistens the mouth, lubricates ingested food, and begins the breakdown of starches.


Derived terms


liquid secreted into the mouth

See also



  1. In the context of "physiology|lang=it": saliva, spittle, spit





  1. the saliva


Extensive Definition

distinguish Salvia
Saliva is the watery and usually frothy substance produced in the mouths of humans and most other animals. Saliva is produced in and secreted from the salivary glands. Human saliva is composed of 98% water, the remainder of which includes electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and various enzymes. As part of the initial process of food digestion, the enzymes in the saliva break down some of the starch and fat in the food at the molecular level. Saliva also breaks down food caught in the teeth, protecting them from bacteria that cause decay. Furthermore, saliva lubricates and protects the teeth, the tongue, and the tender tissues inside the mouth.
Various species have evolved special uses for saliva that go beyond predigestion. Some swifts use their gummy saliva to build their nests. Some Aerodramus swiftlet nests are made only from saliva and used to make bird's nest soup. Cobras, vipers, and certain other members of the venom clade hunt with venomous saliva injected by fangs. Some arthropods, such as spiders and caterpillars, create thread from salivary glands.



The digestive functions of saliva include moistening food, and helping to create a food bolus, so it can be swallowed easily. Saliva contains the enzyme amylase that breaks some starches down into maltose and dextrin. Thus, digestion of food occurs within the mouth, even before food reaches the stomach. Salivary glands also secrete enzymes (salivary lipase) to start fat digestion.


A common belief is that saliva contained in the mouth has natural disinfectants, which leads people to believe it is beneficial to "lick their wounds". Researchers at the University of Florida at Gainesville have discovered a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) in the saliva of mice. Wounds doused with NGF healed twice as fast as untreated and unlicked wounds; therefore, saliva can help to heal wounds in some species. NGF has not been found in human saliva; however, researchers find human saliva contains such antibacterial agents as secretory IgA, lactoferrin, and lactoperoxidase. It has not been shown that human licking of wounds disinfects them, but licking is likely to help clean the wound by removing larger contaminants such as dirt and may help to directly remove infective bodies by brushing them away. Therefore, licking would be a way of washing, useful if purer water isn't available to the animal or person.
The mouth of animals is the habitat of many bacteria, some of which may be pathogenic. Animal (including human) bites are routinely treated with systemic antibiotics because of the risk of septicemia.
Recent research suggests that the saliva of birds is a better indicator of avian influenza than are faecal samples.


The production of saliva is stimulated both by the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic.
The saliva stimulated by sympathetic innervation is thicker, and saliva stimulated parasympathetically is more watery.

Daily salivary output

There has been some disagreement regarding the daily salivary output in a healthy individual. Today, it is believed that the average person produces approximately 0.75 l of saliva per day, less than half of the output originally thought produced.
It is produced at a rate of 1-1.5 l/day. 20ml/hr at rest, 250 ml/hr under stimulated conditions. While sleeping, salivary flow drops to almost zero.


Produced in salivary glands, human saliva is 98% water, but it contains many important substances, including electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds and various enzymes.
It is a fluid containing:
  • Water
  • Electrolytes:
  • Mucus. Mucus in saliva mainly consists of mucopolysaccharides and glycoproteins;
  • Antibacterial compounds (thiocyanate, hydrogen peroxide, and secretory immunoglobulin A)
  • Various enzymes. There are three major enzymes found in saliva.
    • α-amylase (EC3.2.1.1). Amylase starts the digestion of starch and lipase fat before the food is even swallowed. It has a pH optima of 7.4.
    • lysozyme (EC3.2.1.17). Lysozyme acts to cause lysis in bacteria.
    • lingual lipase (EC3.1.1.3). Lingual lipase has a pH optimum ~4.0 so it is not activated till entering an acidic environment.
    • Minor enzymes include salivary acid phosphatases A+B (EC3.1.3.2), N-acetylmuramyl-L-alanine amidase (EC3.5.1.28), NAD(P)H dehydrogenase-quinone (EC1.6.99.2), salivary lactoperoxidase (EC1.11.1.7), superoxide dismutase (EC1.15.1.1), glutathione transferase (EC2.5.1.18), class 3 aldehyde dehydrogenase (EC1.2.1.3), glucose-6-phosphate isomerase (EC5.3.1.9), and tissue kallikrein (EC3.4.21.35).
  • Cells: Possibly as much as 8 million human and 500 million bacterial cells per mL. The presence of bacterial products (small organic acids, amines, and thiols) causes saliva to sometimes exhibit foul odor.
  • Opiorphin, a newly researched pain-killing substance found in human saliva.
Different reagents used to determine the content of saliva \1. Molisch test gives a positive result of purple color that is costituent to the presence of carbohydrates


External links

saliva in Arabic: لعاب
saliva in Min Nan: Chhùi-noā
saliva in Bulgarian: Слюнка
saliva in Catalan: Saliva
saliva in Czech: Slina
saliva in Danish: Spyt
saliva in German: Speichel
saliva in Dhivehi: ކުޅު
saliva in Estonian: Sülg
saliva in Modern Greek (1453-): Σάλιο
saliva in Spanish: Saliva
saliva in Basque: Listu
saliva in Persian: بزاق
saliva in French: Salive
saliva in Croatian: Slina
saliva in Ido: Salivo
saliva in Indonesian: Air liur
saliva in Italian: Saliva
saliva in Hebrew: רוק (ביולוגיה)
saliva in Latin: Saliva
saliva in Latvian: Siekalas
saliva in Lithuanian: Seilės
saliva in Hungarian: Nyál
saliva in Dutch: Speeksel
saliva in Japanese: 唾液
saliva in Norwegian: Spytt
saliva in Polish: Ślina
saliva in Portuguese: Saliva
saliva in Kölsch: Seiver
saliva in Russian: Слюна
saliva in Sicilian: Sputazza
saliva in Simple English: Saliva
saliva in Slovak: Slina
saliva in Slovenian: Slina
saliva in Serbian: Пљувачка
saliva in Finnish: Sylki
saliva in Swedish: Saliv
saliva in Tamil: உமிழ்நீர்
saliva in Thai: น้ำลาย
saliva in Vietnamese: Nước miếng
saliva in Ukrainian: Слина
saliva in Võro: Sülg
saliva in Yiddish: שפייאכץ
saliva in Contenese: 口水
saliva in Chinese: 唾液

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

absorption, assimilation, bile, chyle, colostrum, digestion, digestive system, discharge, dribble, drivel, drool, expectoration, foam, froth, gastric juice, gastrointestinal tract, gleet, humor, ichor, ingestion, intestinal juice, lachryma, lactation, leukorrhea, liver, lymph, matter, milk, mouth-watering, mucor, mucus, pancreas, pancreatic digestion, pancreatic juice, peccant humor, phlegm, predigestion, ptyalism, purulence, pus, rheum, salivary digestion, salivary glands, salivation, sanies, secondary digestion, serous fluid, serum, sialagogue, slabber, slaver, slobber, snot, spit, spittle, sputum, suppuration, sweat, tear, teardrop, the whites, urine, water
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