Solvent Definition in Chemistry

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

Ivan-balvan / Getty Images

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.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Solvent Definition in Chemistry." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 28). Solvent Definition in Chemistry. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Solvent Definition in Chemistry." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 17, 2021).