Definition of saponify in US English:



[with object]Chemistry
  • 1Turn (fat or oil) into soap by reaction with an alkali.

    ‘saponified vegetable oils’
    • ‘In this work, saponified coconut oil was used as a chemical model to explain the behavior of amphiphilic molecules in biological systems related to their mutagenesis potential.’
    • ‘The purpose of an alkali is to saponify the oils and dislodge ordinary soil and other matter.’
    • ‘Sterol lipids were saponified and extracted using a modification of a published method.’
    • ‘After visualization with primuline (0 • 01% in 80% acetone), lipid bands were scraped off, saponified and fatty acids methylated with boron trifluoride.’
    • ‘Its vegetable and botanical ingredients include saponified coconut and olive oils, a natural citrus essential-oil blend, and aloe and rosemary extracts.’
    1. 1.1 Convert (any ester) into an alcohol and a metal salt by alkaline hydrolysis.
      • ‘The ethyl ester protecting groups of the tartrate were saponified in 1 M NaOH and heated at 40-45 deg C for I h.’
      • ‘Under acidic conditions, it changes into Pheo a, whereas it is saponified to chlorophyllide under alkali conditions.’
      • ‘A sample of the isolated anthocyanins was also saponified using the method described by Durst and Wrolstad to remove acylation.’
      • ‘The resulting ester was saponified under basic conditions to the free acid, converted to the acyl chloride with thionyl chloride, and then to the amide with anhydrous ammonia gas.’


Early 19th century: from French saponifier, from Latin sapo, sapon- ‘soap’.