Definition of saltation in US English:



  • 1Biology
    Abrupt evolutionary change; sudden large-scale mutation.

    ‘new genetic characters appear suddenly by saltation’
    count noun ‘a new concept of evolution by saltations or sudden transitions’
    • ‘In particular, where Darwin had seen evolution and a slow, gradual, continuous process, Huxley thought that an evolving lineage might make rapid jumps, or saltations.’
    • ‘But accepting the data at face value raises the interesting possibility that hierarchy may be quite labile, that hierarchical saltations may be relatively easy in evolution.’
    • ‘Lyons next examines Huxley's conversion from saltation to gradualism, predicated to a great degree on his own studies of Archaeopteryx and relationships among reptiles, dinosaurs, and birds.’
    • ‘He gave examples of new races formed in sudden jumps or saltations to illustrate that ‘the evolution of organisms may… be a much more rapid process than Darwin believes.’’
    • ‘In a phylogenetic dendrogram, branches and twigs here and there show saltations into a new grade.’
  • 2Geology
    The movement of hard particles such as sand over an uneven surface in a turbulent flow of air or water.

    ‘the distance traveled by each grain during saltation’
    • ‘Although the dunes near Parker seem to be an extension of this same sandflow path, Muhs says that saltation couldn't carry grains of sand across the Colorado River.’
    • ‘Eroded sediment can be transported by creep, saltation, or suspension, and where much fine soil or sediment is present, dust clouds can result.’
    • ‘This process, in which sand grains bounce downwind, is called saltation.’
    • ‘Atreya then went on to show that substantially greater quantities of H2O2 can be produced by triboelectric fields in dust devils and dust storms and through saltation.’
  • 3archaic The action of leaping or dancing.

    • ‘These actions are important in the effective use of the hindlimbs during terrestrial saltation and swimming.’
    • ‘In addition to the dorso-ventral flexion seen during saltation, the sacroiliac joint often allows varying degrees of lateral movement.’
    leap, jump, bound, vault, hop
    View synonyms


Early 17th century (in saltation (sense 3)): from Latin saltatio(n-), from saltare ‘to dance’, frequentative of salire ‘to leap’.