Definition of saponin in US English:



  • 1A toxic compound which is present in soapwort and makes foam when shaken with water.

    • ‘Cells were then permeablized with saponin and incubated with fluorescent-labeled antibodies, and four-color flow cytometry was performed.’
    • ‘Both the roots and leaves of the Soapwort contain saponin and when stirred in water produce a lather which may be used for washing.’
    • ‘Quinoa has a natural coating of saponin, the bitter taste of which repels insects and birds.’
    • ‘The group attempted to buy 500 kg of saponin, which could be mixed with ricin or another toxin to cause widespread poisoning if the concoction was smeared on surfaces in public places.’
    • ‘Bouncing Bet has long been used as a cleaning agent because the roots contain saponin, which lathers with water.’
    1. 1.1 Any of the class of steroid and terpenoid glycosides typified by this, examples of which are used in detergents and foam fire extinguishers.
      • ‘It contains a number of active constituents including flavonoids, catechins, triterpene saponins, amines, and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs).’
      • ‘Trichosanthes seed, however, contains primarily fatty acids, saponins, and resins that have no known toxicity.’
      • ‘A related triterpenoid saponin, avenacin A - 1, was shown to permeabilize planar phospholipid membranes, and this conductance was interpreted as being due to channel formation.’
      • ‘The major compounds extracted by water were amino acids, peptides, saponins, phenol glycosides, tannins, and alkaloids.’
      • ‘Structurally, avicins are part of a greater family of molecules called triterpenoid saponins.’


Mid 19th century: from French saponine, from Latin sapo, sapon- ‘soap’.