Is there any evidence of any usage in any francophone country to indicate that the French adjective “savoureux(se)” is being used to replace the adjective “salé(e)” or that “savoureux(se)” is being used to mean “non sucre(e)” to describe food, similar to the phenomenon occurring in American English described below, and if this is happening in the French language, are there any linguistic or etymologic justifications for it?

(Here's what's happening/has happened in/with/TO American English)

Over the last 5 to 10 years in American English, makers of certain foods/snacks (and their marketing associates on Madison Avenue) have accomplished a brilliant “coup” by successfully replacing an adjective that is considered evil by the growing number of health-conscious people in the U.S.A, (i.e.. “salty”) with one that theretofore meant “having a pleasant taste or smell” to the vast majority of American consumers, (i.e., “savory”).
Salty snacks are now called savory snacks; salty crepes are now called savory crepes; essentially anything that isn’t “sugary” or “sweet” is now called “savory.”
(My favorite bar is even considering changing its name from “The Salty Dog” to “The Savory Dog” and worse yet, shutting down its smoking section. Needless to say that I won’t return if any of that happens!)

[Please note: I'm NOT asking why this is happening in the U.S. because I am aware that the British meaning of their "savoury" has long included 'not sweet," and that the Japanese translation of "savory" (the plant) is "Umami", giving justification to people less skeptical of 'Madison Avenue' than myself to cite either or both of these two facts to explain the phenomenon I describe]

[Please note also, that I did do some research (see below) on my own before deciding to ask my question here, and I did find a reference to “du sel” at “Trésor de la langue française” under “savoueux(se),” but it wasn’t under the “food/drink” definition. It was instead under the figurative definition for “things” (other than food or drink, perhaps??) and “people” so I really don’t think that the answer to my question could have been easily found in a dictionary (either by inclusion or omission)]


A. − [En parlant d'un aliment plus souvent que d'une boisson]

(I could find no reference to salt/salty or non-sugary/unsweet under this definition)

B. − Au fig. 2. Qui a du charme, DU SEL, qui séduit l'esprit, stimule l'attention, l'intérêt. Synon. piquant. (emphasis added)

(Other than the "du sel" mentioned in the heading above, I could find no other reference to nor examples using "du sel," “salé(e),” or "non sucré(e)" under this definition)

(One final note of a personal nature: If this has started to happen in French (and if there are no linguistic or etymologic reasons for it), please fight against it in the name of all things good and salty!)

3 Answers 3


I've never seen savoureux being used to denote one of the basic tastes. The classical four basic tastes are sucré, salé, amer, acide, to which it is now common to add umami. Umami is sometimes translated as savoureux, but that's rare in my experience.

I've never seen savoureux being used to denote one of the two food classifications from 18th century French cuisine. It's always salé and sucré. Main dishes are salé (whether they are prepared with salt or not), desserts are sucré, bread and water are neutral. The adjective savoureux denotes anything especially tasty, whether it belongs to the salé or sucré group. The Dictionnaire de l'Académie française cites both “viandes savoureuses” and “fruits savoureux” as usage examples, showing that savoureux also applies to sweet foods. Similarly the more modern Trésor de la langue française gives the examples “fruit, gâteau, morceau de viande, vin savoureux”.

Québec French doesn't seem to have diverged on this. The Grand Dictionnaire Terminologique article for “saveur salée” or “goût salé” provides the definition “Savory : giving a relish, salty and not sweet.” and gives “savo(u)ry flavo(u)r” as the corresponding English term. The only entry for savoureux is about wines (“gorgeous”).

Linguee shows “plat savoureux” mainly translated as “tasty” or “delicious”. A web search for plat savoureux only turns up uses where it means tasty, none where it would be a synonym salé.

So no, savoureux does not ever mean salé, on either side of the Altantic.

(By the way, in English, savo(u)ry meaning salty/main-dish in the savoury/sweet duality is not solely American and is far more than a decade old.)

  • Thanks for the info! Regarding your closing parenthetical, I didn't mean to say that the savo(u)ry/sweet duality was solely American (or even that it was solely British). Nor did I mean to say that this meaning has been around for only a decade, just that it I have personally noticed a marked increase in the use of this "salty" meaning of "savo(u)ry" over the past decade, which to at least some degree is arguably supported by Ngram: (cite to follow in next comment)
    – Papa Poule
    Nov 9, 2014 at 15:18
  • books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Papa Poule
    Nov 9, 2014 at 15:18

La présence de sel n'est pas indispensable pour qu'un mets soit qualifié de savoureux, car la saveur se rapporte à la qualité gustative de ce dernier qui est une notion à la fois plus large et plus subjective.

Cependant, dans le Grand Dictionnaire des Arts et des Sciences daté de 1696, Thomas Corneille (le frère de Pierre), écrit :

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Les chimistes prétendent avec raison que le sel est dans les chose principales cause des saveurs, comme si cela venait des corpuscules qui forment le sel, et que ces corpuscules appliquées à l'organisme du goût s'y insinuassent d'une telle manière qu'ils le mussent selon la proportion ou le rapport qu'ils ont avec lui. On n'en peut douter, puisqu'il n'y a rien de savoureux dont on ne puisse tirer le sel et qui devienne insipide après qu'on l'en a tiré, de même qu'il n'y a rien d'insipide qu'on ne rende savoureux si l'on y mêle du sel.


Le Grand Robert indique pour savoureux:

Fig. Qui a de la saveur (fig.), du sel, du piquant.

On peut dire que c'est salé. Mais ce n'ai pas dans le sens du sel de cuisine, mais du sel qui donne du piquant, de l'intérêt.

  • 1
    Mais ce n'est pas un sens qu'on applique à la nourriture.
    – Circeus
    Nov 9, 2014 at 1:08
  • 1
    Non, ce n'est effectivement pas un sens qu'on utilise pour de la nourriture.
    – Croises
    Nov 9, 2014 at 1:12

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