AskDefine | Define expectorate

Dictionary Definition



1 clear out the chest and lungs; "This drug expectorates quickly" [syn: clear out, drive out]
2 discharge (phlegm or sputum) from the lungs and out of the mouth [syn: cough up, cough out, spit up, spit out]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ɪkˈspɛktəreɪt/


  1. To cough up fluid from the lungs.
  2. To spit.

Related terms

See also


to cough up fluid from the lungs
to spit

Translations to be checked

Extensive Definition

Spitting or expectoration is the act of forcibly ejecting saliva or other substances from the mouth. It is normally considered rude and a social taboo in many part of the world, though spitting can still be occasionally observed in some places. It is possible to transmit infectious diseases in this way.
Spitting upon another person, especially onto the face, is a universal sign of anger, hatred or contempt, for example it is the subject of an urban legend representing the contempt with which Vietnam veterans were treated on their return to the United States. It can represent a "symbolical regurgitation" or an act of contamination. It can also be a device to bring good luck or ward off bad.
In Canada, UK and Australia the term spitting is used for describing a soft raining.

History of spitting in western Europe

Social attitudes towards spitting have changed greatly in western Europe since the Middle Ages. Then, frequent spitting was part of everyday life, and at all levels of society, it was thought ill-mannered to suck back saliva to avoid spitting. By the early 1700s, spitting had become seen as something which should be concealed, and by 1859 many viewed the spitting on the floor or street as vulgar, especially in mixed company. Spittoons were used openly during the nineteenth century to provide an acceptable outlet for spitters. Spittoons became far less common after the influenza epidemic of 1918, and their use has since virtually disappeared, though each justice of the Supreme Court of the United States continues to be provided with a personal cuspidor

Spitting habits

Many people in the world spit for different reasons. Atypical pneumonia can be spread by respiratory droplets. Atypical pneumonia is a pneumonia that does not respond to the usual antibiotic treatment, therefore making this pneumonia rather severe. Another disease which can be transmitted by spitting is tuberculosis.
The act of spitting has become popular among many children and teenagers as a sign of contempt or frustration at society in general, or higher powers such as the law.

Spitting competitions

There are some places whereby spitting is a competitive sport, with or without a projectile in the mouth. For example, there is a Guinness World Record for cherry pit spitting, and there are world championships in Kudu dung spitting.

Spitting Theory

It has often been suggested that spitting, in the human world, is a territorial act that has been locked in our past genes. In soccer, players spit in groups around who takes the free kick as both a territorial gesture and also a way to show displeasure at not getting the shot, needless to say, free kicks are a spitting orgy. The most common "spitters" are young males in the prime years, generally the years when testosterone levels are at their highest.


  • Amongst the Fremen of Arrakis in Frank Herbert's Dune series, spitting is an act of showing one's appreciation and respect. Since the desert of Arrakis provides only a small amount of water to live from, giving away fluid is a special sign of honor.
  • Spitting (or "gobbing") was a common practise among English punks in the 1970s. When the punk bands played live, it was seen as part of the punk ritual to spit on them.
  • The Maasai tribe in Africa spit upon one another as a greeting and farewell. This was satirized in the movie Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
  • A camel or llama may spit if it is annoyed.
  • In law, spitting may be considered an assault and battery.
  • Spitting within a few days after removal of a tooth can disrupt the recovery process as the spitting action can change the pressure inside the mouth and disturb scabs/clots in the wound.
  • Baseball player Frenchy Bordagaray was once suspended for spitting on an umpire. He remarked that the punishment was "more than I expectorated."
expectorate in Russian: Плевание
expectorate in Chinese: 吐痰
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