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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Solubility \Sol`u*bil"i*ty\, n. [Cf. F. solubilit['e].]

  1. The quality, condition, or degree of being soluble or solvable; as, the solubility of a salt; the solubility of a problem or intricate difficulty.

  2. (Bot.) The tendency to separate readily into parts by spurious articulations, as the pods of tick trefoil.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1670s, from soluble + -ity.


n. 1 The condition of being soluble. 2 (context chemistry English) The amount of a substance that will dissolve in a given amount of a solvent, to give a saturated solution, under specified conditions.

  1. n. the quality of being soluble [ant: insolubility]

  2. the quantity of a particular substance that can dissolve in a particular solvent (yielding a saturated solution)


Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the physical and chemical properties of the solute and solvent as well as on temperature, pressure and the pH of the solution. The extent of the solubility of a substance in a specific solvent is measured as the saturation concentration, where adding more solute does not increase the concentration of the solution and begins to precipitate the excess amount of solute. The solubility of a substance is an entirely different property from the rate of solution, which is how fast it dissolves.

Most often, the solvent is a liquid, which can be a pure substance or a mixture. One may also speak of solid solution, but rarely of solution in a gas (see vapor–liquid equilibrium instead).

The extent of solubility ranges widely, from infinitely soluble (without limit) (fully miscible) such as ethanol in water, to poorly soluble, such as silver chloride in water. The term insoluble is often applied to poorly or very poorly soluble compounds. A common threshold to describe something as insoluble is less than 0.1 g per 100 mL of solvent.

Under certain conditions, the equilibrium solubility can be exceeded to give a so-called supersaturated solution, which is metastable. Metastability of crystals can also lead to apparent differences in the amount of a chemical that dissolves depending on its crystalline form or particle size. A supersaturated solution generally crystallises when 'seed' crystals are introduced and rapid equilibration occurs. Phenylsalicylate is one such simple observable substance when fully melted and then cooled below its fusion point.

Solubility is not to be confused with the ability to 'dissolve' a substance, because the solution might also occur because of a chemical reaction. For example, zinc 'dissolves' (with effervescence) in hydrochloric acid as a result of a chemical reaction releasing hydrogen gas in a displacement reaction. The zinc ions are soluble in the acid.

The smaller a particle is, the faster it dissolves although there are many factors to add to this generalization.

Crucially solubility applies to all areas of chemistry, geochemistry, inorganic, physical, organic and biochemistry. In all cases it will depend on the physical conditions (temperature, pressure and concentration) and the enthalpy and entropy directly relating to the solvents and solutes concerned. By far the most common solvent in chemistry is water which is a solvent for most ionic compounds as well as a wide range of organic substances. This is a crucial factor in acidity/alkalinity and much environmental and geochemical work.

Usage examples of "solubility".

It is distinguished by the solubility of its hydrate in ammonic carbonate, by not being precipitated by boiling with sodium hyposulphite, and by not being precipitated by ammonic sulphide from an ammonic carbonate solution.

Of course, with body fluids under the same pressure, it might be more a matter of complex ion equilibrium than simple solubility.

The solubilities of organic compounds in various solvents has become of particular interest in this connection through the recent discovery of the endochronic nature of thiotimoline.