sa·​lient | \ˈsā-lyənt, -lē-ənt\

Definition of salient 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : moving by leaps or springs : jumping

2 : jetting upward a salient fountain

3a : projecting beyond a line, surface, or level

b : standing out conspicuously : prominent especially : of notable significance similar to … Prohibition, but there are a couple of salient differences — Tony Gibbs


sa·​lient | \ˈsā-lyənt, -lē-ənt\

Definition of salient (Entry 2 of 2)

: something (such as a promontory) that projects outward or upward from its surroundings especially : an outwardly projecting part of a fortification, trench system, or line of defense

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Other Words from salient


saliently adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for salient


noticeable, remarkable, prominent, outstanding, conspicuous, salient, striking mean attracting notice or attention. noticeable applies to something unlikely to escape observation. a piano recital with no noticeable errors remarkable applies to something so extraordinary or exceptional as to invite comment. a film of remarkable intelligence and wit prominent applies to something commanding notice by standing out from its surroundings or background. a doctor who occupies a prominent position in the town outstanding applies to something that rises above and excels others of the same kind. honored for her outstanding contributions to science conspicuous applies to something that is obvious and unavoidable to the sight or mind. conspicuous bureaucratic waste salient applies to something of significance that merits the attention given it. the salient points of the speech striking applies to something that impresses itself powerfully and deeply upon the observer's mind or vision. the region's striking poverty

Did You Know?


Salient first popped up in English in the mid-17th century, and in its earliest English uses meant "moving by leaps or springs" (as in "a salient cheetah") or "spouting forth" (as in "a salient fountain"). Those senses aren't too much of a jump from the word's parent, the Latin verb salire, which means "to leap." Salire has leaped into many English words; it's also an ancestor of somersault and sally, as well as Salientia, the name for an order of amphibians that includes frogs, toads, and other notable jumpers. Today, salient is usually used to describe things that are physically prominent (such as a salient nose) or that stand out figuratively (such as the salient features of a painting).

Examples of salient in a Sentence


Then there were those who doubted the need for radio in the first place, since the telegraph was already ubiquitous. Marconi's salient achievement was to realize that radio waves could be transmitted across vast distances, an incalculable step forward in mass communications. — Kevin Baker, New York Times Book Review, 5 Nov. 2006 A 2002 study conducted at the University of Illinois by Diener and Seligman found that the most salient characteristics shared by the 10% of students with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them. — Claudia Wallis, Time, 17 Jan. 2005 The difference between the people Liebling chose to write about and today's celebrity culture is the difference between the "profile" and the "portrait." A profile is an outline, a concise rendering of the most salient facts, though the facts may be inessential and even inaccurate in their generality. … A portrait, on the other hand, is a revelation, an exposure. — Lee Siegel, Harper's, December 2004 Kermeen cites "a book published in 1882" that says of ghosts at the Myrtles: "The lights are never extinguished at the plantation. When the lights are all out, something always happens." Kermeen does not further identify this book (another source says it was published "in 1900"), but the salient point here is that it apparently did not mention the Chloe tale. That suggests it was probably unknown until relatively recently. — Joe Nickell, Skeptical Inquirer, September/October 2003


The attempts of the Teutonic armies to envelop and destroy some portion of the Russian forces involved the creation of several dangerous salients in the Russian line, followed by an endeavor to close the neck of each salient by attacks from both sides and so to isolate the armies forming its apex. — Douglas Wilson Johnson, Topography and Strategy in the War, 1917

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Novey, a writer, poet and translator, began work on the book long before the #MeToo movement, but her examination of power, misogyny and complicity often feels uncannily salient. Lane Florsheim, WSJ, "Idra Novey Wrote a #MeToo Novel Before the #MeToo Movement," 5 Nov. 2018 The civil rights of African-Americans were newly salient, as the Black Lives Matter movement coalesced to protest the deaths of unarmed blacks at the hands of police forces. Ezra Klein, Vox, "How identity politics elected Donald Trump," 5 Nov. 2018 The narrative of a young woman suffering intense emotional and physical abuse, with a dozen rational reasons to reserve the U-Haul and exit stage left—but more culturally salient reasons to stay—ain’t a novel one anymore. Jerel Ezell, The Root, "Speaking Out Against Domestic Violence on Black Women Is No Longer Taboo, but Doing Something About It Is," 10 May 2018 While airstrikes may indeed be used as a means of escalation, states are likely aware that airstrikes are a limited signal — and realize that the most salient crises cannot be resolved with airstrikes alone or without a stronger signal of resolve. Susan Hannah Allen, Washington Post, "The U.S. just bombed 3 sites in Syria. Here’s what we know about why states choose airstrikes.," 14 Apr. 2018 The other dynamic here is that Trump’s Twitter feed is a lot more salient to political obsessives than to most Americans. Ezra Klein, Vox, "The messy reality of Donald Trump’s poll numbers," 5 July 2018 And herein lies the most salient difference between Denton and he: Denton is only a millionaire. Stephen Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, "New tech books: ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Broad Band,’ ‘The Truth Machine’," 1 June 2018 That’s especially salient for Paonia, said Brad Burton, a petroleum geologist at Western State Colorado University. Zack Colman, Scientific American, "A Trump Oil Boom Could Transform This Rocky Mountain Landscape," 13 July 2018 One of the more salient aspects of The Glitch Mob’s live setup is their decision to angle their MIDI controllers down towards the crowd. Michael Sundius, Billboard, "Inside The Glitch Mob's Innovative Blade 2.0 Stage: Exclusive Interview," 31 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Health care dominates the race between Messrs. MacArthur and Kim, but the state’s high property taxes make tax policy salient too. Richard Rubin, WSJ, "Some GOP Lawmakers Reckon With Their Tax Vote Record," 1 Nov. 2018 The challenge for Democrats has been keeping health care salient. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "How Democrats Plan to Turn Kennedy’s Retirement Into a Political Win," 3 July 2018 The walls of the Hall of Memory are inscribed with the names of 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the Ypres salient before 16 August 1917. Smithsonian, "World War I Cemeteries & Memorials Around the World," 26 May 2017 The walls of the Hall of Memory are inscribed with the names of 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the Ypres salient before 16 August 1917. Smithsonian, "World War I Cemeteries & Memorials Around the World," 26 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'salient.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of salient


1646, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1828, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for salient


Latin salient-, saliens, present participle of salire to leap — more at sally


see salient entry 1

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Last Updated

16 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for salient

The first known use of salient was in 1646

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More Definitions for salient



English Language Learners Definition of salient

: very important or noticeable

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More from Merriam-Webster on salient

Spanish Central: Translation of salient

Nglish: Translation of salient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of salient for Arabic Speakers

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living or existing for a long time

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