An emollient is a cream or ointment with a thick, gooey texture. When your hands are dry and cracked in the winter, you probably apply an emollient to make them softer.

Emollient comes from a Latin word with the same spelling, which means “to make soft.” The noun form of emollient refers to a substance that makes something soft. However, emollient can also be an adjective used to describe something with a softening or soothing effect. For example, the annoying child on the airplane might be soothed by the emollient sound of the pilot’s voice over the intercom.

Definitions of emollient

n toiletry consisting of any of various substances in the form of a thick liquid that have a soothing and moisturizing effect when applied to the skin

cream, ointment
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cold cream, coldcream, face cream, vanishing cream
a cream used cosmetically (mostly by women) for softening and cleaning the skin
hand cream
moisturizing cream for the hands
an emollient containing wool fat (a fatty substance obtained from the wool of sheep)
nard, spikenard
an aromatic ointment used in antiquity
sun blocker, sunblock, sunscreen
a cream spread on the skin; contains a chemical (as PABA) to filter out ultraviolet light and so protect from sunburn
Type of:
toilet articles, toiletry
artifacts used in making your toilet (washing and taking care of your body)

adj having a softening or soothing effect especially to the skin

demulcent, salving, softening
yielding readily to pressure or weight