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The heraldic sense “leaping” and the sense “projecting outward” are from Latin saliēns, salientem, from saliō (leap, spring). The senses “prominent” and “pertinent” are relatively recently from the phrase salient point, which is from the Latin punctum saliēns, a translation of Aristotle's term for the embryonal heart visible in (opened) eggs, which he thought seemed to move already. Compare the German calque der springende Punkt.


  • IPA(key): /ˈseɪljənt/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈseɪ.ljənt/, /ˈseɪ.li.ənt/
  • (file)
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  • Hyphenation: sa‧lient


salient (comparative more salient, superlative most salient)

  1. Worthy of note; pertinent or relevant.
    Synonyms: pertinent, relevant; see also Thesaurus:pertinent
    The article is not exhaustive, but it covers the salient points pretty well.
  2. Prominent; conspicuous.
    Antonyms: obscure, trivial
    • Bancroft
      He [Grenville] had neither salient traits, nor general comprehensiveness of mind.
    • 2018, James Lambert, “A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity”, in English World-Wide[1], page 2:
      Professionally published dictionaries do not seem to have extended coverage beyond the most frequent and salient items.
  3. (heraldry, usually of a quadruped) Depicted in a leaping posture.
    a lion salient
  4. (often military) Projecting outwards, pointing outwards.
    a salient angle
  5. (obsolete) Moving by leaps or springs; jumping.
    • Sir Thomas Browne
      frogs and salient animals
  6. (obsolete) Shooting or springing out; projecting.
    • Burke
      He had in himself a salient, living spring of generous and manly action.
  7. (geometry) Denoting any angle less than two right angles.


1878 1898 1936
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1878, Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native, Book 2, chapter 5:
    With nearer approach these fragmentary sounds became pieced together, and were found to be the salient points of the tune called "Nancy's Fancy."
  • 1898, H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds Book2, chapter 2:
    The last salient point in which the systems of these creatures differed from ours was in what one might have thought a very trivial particular.
  • 1936, H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth:
    Warning me that many of the street signs were down, the youth drew for my benefit a rough but ample and painstaking sketch map of the town's salient features.

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salient (plural salients)

  1. (military) An outwardly projecting part of a fortification, trench system, or line of defense.
    • 1978, Jan Morris, Farewell the Trumpets, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Chapter 9, p. 193,[2]
      The battlefronts were often no more than a few hundred yards wide, and the salients never more than a few miles deep.

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  1. third-person plural future active indicative of saliō