sa·​pon·​i·​fi·​ca·​tion sə-ˌpä-nə-fə-ˈkā-shən How to pronounce saponification (audio)
: the act, process, or result of making soap : conversion into soap

Examples of saponification in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In cold enough water, organic matter—including, unfortunately, dead human bodies—may also undergo a saponification process. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 13 Feb. 2023 The mixture prompts a chemical reaction called saponification. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 20 Oct. 2021 During the saponification process, the body’s fatty acids turn into a waxy, soap-like compound that covers the corpse and prevents putrefaction. Oscar Urbiola, National Geographic, 29 Oct. 2019 When combined, the reaction is called 'saponification'. Meghan Caudill, Good Housekeeping, 8 Jan. 2018 This allows the soap to finish saponification and for all the excess water to evaporate. Meghan Caudill, Good Housekeeping, 8 Jan. 2018 In a process called saponification, an alkali is used to cause changes in animal or vegetable fats, leaving behind soap and glycerol. C. Claiborne Ray, New York Times, 6 Apr. 2018 In 2011, Joel Ducoste of North Carolina State University and his team reported that the same process that can turn lard into soap, called saponification, happens in sewer grease if calcium’s around. Erika Engelhaupt, National Geographic, 16 Aug. 2017 That's because typical biodiesel processing uses lye, which turns into soap when it's combined with highly fatty oils in a reaction called saponification, Hood said. Brittany Crocker, USA TODAY, 10 Aug. 2017

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

Word History

First Known Use

1817, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of saponification was in 1817

Dictionary Entries Near saponification

Cite this Entry

“Saponification.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Medical Definition


sa·​pon·​i·​fi·​ca·​tion sə-ˌpän-ə-fə-ˈkā-shən How to pronounce saponification (audio)
: the hydrolysis of a fat by an alkali with the formation of a soap and glycerol
: the hydrolysis especially by an alkali of an ester into the corresponding alcohol and acid
broadly : hydrolysis
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