Mouth Watering —Its Meaning and Origin


Having one’s appetite enticed by something, usually its by food.

Example: I went on vacation to South Korea with a friend. He took me to a Korean BBQ restaurant for the first time. I must say, all the food looked mouth-watering. It tasted even better! I’m definitely going back tomorrow.

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
Finger lickin’ good
Full of flavor
Mouth-watering pancakes with butter and maple syrup.
Someone might describe these pancakes as being “mouth-watering,” meaning they look good. And I would agree with them.

Origin Of “Mouth-Watering”

This phrase likely comes from the fact that when humans see or smell food, they will start to salivate more so than usual. The ‘water’ mentioned in the phrase is not actually water, but saliva that the body produces more of when eating. Thus, when a person sees or smells some delicious food, they may begin to ‘water’ at the mouth. Interestingly, saliva is made up mostly of water.

The phrase has been used since at least the mid-18th century, and it looks to have been utilized in relation to food, which is how it’s commonly used today. For example, in the European Magazine and London Review, March 1784, the saying is written in a story, and one of the character says:

“I see him this moment before me–his huge paunch blown up like a feather bed, his gouty legs resting on two down pillows, his eyes sparkling, his mouth watering, the napkin tucked under his rosy gills, and the whole pie devour’d in imagination before he had tasted a morsel of it.”

Example Sentences

  1. After a long day at work, I couldn’t wait to get home and eat. My wife prepared a mouth-watering dinner, for which I am very thankful.

Note: Know Your Phrase has the meanings for common phrases, and the origins too! However, there are times when the origins of a saying are not known. So what happens if that’s the case? Well, what you’ll see instead included on the page is an explanation that talks about how a saying may have originated. If there is no explanation on the page, then typically there will at least be a quote of the term being used in writing. These quotes are usually the oldest known citations of the expression being used in writing.

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