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emol·​lient i-ˈmäl-yənt How to pronounce emollient (audio)
: making soft or supple
also : soothing especially to the skin or mucous membrane
an emollient hand lotion
: making less intense or harsh : mollifying
soothe us in our agonies with emollient wordsH. L. Mencken


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: something that softens or soothes

Did you know?

Emollient derives from the present participle of the Latin verb emollire, which, unsurprisingly, means "to soften or soothe." Emollire, in turn, derives ultimately from mollis, meaning "soft." Another descendant of mollis is mollify (essentially meaning "to make softer in temper or disposition"). A more distant relative is mild, which can be traced back to the same ancient source as mollis. The adjective emollient first appeared in print in English in the early 1600s; the noun arrived on the scene soon after.

Examples of emollient in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Overnight Gel-Cream ($40), a more emollient formula made to hydrate dull skin overnight. Blake Newby, Essence, 26 Dec. 2020 Using ingredients like shea butter, avocado oil, vitamin E, and green tea, this is an emollient-rich balm that soothes and rehydrates. Rachael Schultz, Health, 12 Apr. 2023 Seal it all in with an emollient moisturizer. Brian Underwood, Women's Health, 27 Feb. 2023 Zelensky, an affable, squat man who speaks in a rapid-fire, cheese-grater voice, failed to bring peace, angering pro-Russia Ukrainians, who saw him as a more emollient figure than Poroshenko, and infuriating others who saw him as a weak man played by Putin, Zolkina said. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, 14 Feb. 2022 Concentrations under 50 percent allow glycerin to exhibit emollient properties, which help soften the skin. Elise Tabin, Harper's BAZAAR, 14 Mar. 2023 An emollient body balm to lock in moisture after a shower. Kiana Murden, Vogue, 12 Jan. 2023 Sunak has been more emollient, making warm calls to European leaders in the days after taking office. Arkansas Online, 26 Nov. 2022
As a humectant, emollient, and preservative, propylene glycol holds moisture while preventing mold in certain medicines, cosmetics, and foods. Tolu Ajiboye, Verywell Health, 2 July 2023 The lotion’s other active ingredient is dimethicone, a silicon polymer that works as an emollient, which seals in skin’s natural moisture and protects. Tanya Edwards, Parents, 13 June 2023 Ceramides, oils, and squalane are good examples of emollients. Melanie Rud, Peoplemag, 6 Mar. 2023 Its hero ingredient is petrolatum, one of the emollients Dr. Garlapati recommends for eczema. Theresa Holland, Peoplemag, 10 Apr. 2023 Additionally, Courtney Moseley, a physician’s assistant who specializes in skincare says emollients like shea butter, lanolin, and petrolatum are also highly beneficial. Jessie Quinn, Peoplemag, 20 July 2023 The Ultra Facial Cleanser notably has emollients like apricot kernel oil and squalane to ensure your skin doesn't feel stripped or tight after all of that dirt and excess oil has been swept away. Nykia Spradley, Allure, 19 July 2023 It is supplemented with skin-friendly emollients like sunflower oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter, and olive oil. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 5 July 2023 Tsubaki-seed oil (drawn from seeds of the camellia oleifera wildflower, with a consistency that’s similar to sebum) works to moisturize and nourish the hair, zapping flyaways and frizz in the process; then there’s meadowfoam oil, which is a kind of emollient that also works as a heat protectant. Shanna Shipin, Glamour, 28 Dec. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'emollient.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Latin emollient-, emolliens, present participle of emollire to soften, from e- + mollis soft — more at mollify

First Known Use


1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1656, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of emollient was in 1626


Dictionary Entries Near emollient

Cite this Entry

“Emollient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emollient. Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Medical Definition


1 of 2 adjective
emol·​lient i-ˈmäl-yənt How to pronounce emollient (audio)
: making soft or supple
also : soothing especially to the skin or mucous membrane


2 of 2 noun
: an emollient agent
an emollient for the hands

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