Mouth-Watering, Its Meaning and Origin


If something looks mouth-watering, that means it looks tasty.

Example: My friend and I took a trip to South Korea. While we were there, we went to a Korean BBQ restaurant for the first time and I have to say, all the food I saw was mouth-watering. It tasted even better! (In other words, the food looked delicious.)

1. Finger lickin’ good
2. Yummy to my tummy

Mouth-watering pancakes with butter and maple syrup.
Someone might describe pancakes as being “mouth-watering,” meaning they look good.

The Origin Of “Mouth-Watering”

This phrase likely comes from the fact that when humans see or smell food, their mouths might produce more saliva than usual. The “water” mentioned in the phrase is not actually water, but saliva that the mouth produces. So when a person sees or smells some delicious food, they might begin to “water” at the mouth. Interestingly, saliva is made up mostly of water.

This phrase “mouth watering” has been used since at least the mid-18th century. Its meaning back then looks the same as today. For example, in the European Magazine and London Review, March 1784, the saying is written in a story and one of the characters from the story 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

  • My wife has prepared a mouth-watering dinner for the two of us, so I cannot wait to get home to eat it.

Similar Example:

  • That pizza looks finger-lickin’ good, I’ll take a slice if you don’t mind.

Tip: Know Your Phrase has the meaning of many common phrases. For some of them, you can also learn about their origin too. How do you find more expressions? To get to the phrase’s list, use the menu at the top. All you have to do is a choose a letter.