Solvent Definition in Chemistry

Pouring liquid from a beaker
Sometimes water is called the universal solvent.

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A solvent is the component of a solution that is present in the greatest amount. It is the substance in which the solute is dissolved. Usually, a solvent is a liquid. However, it can be a gas, solid, or supercritical fluid. The amount of solvent required to dissolve a solute depends on temperature and the presence of other substances in a sample. The word "solvent" comes from the Latin solvō, which means to loosen or untie.

Examples of Solvents

  • The solvent for seawater is water.
  • The solvent for air is nitrogen.


  • Tinoco, I.; Sauer, K.; Wang, J.C. (2002). Physical Chemistry. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-026607-1.