I want to know what word should I use to describe the taste of water. I always say it tastes nothing to mean that it does not have taste, not sweet, not salty, not spicy, and not sour.

  • 11
    Water tastes wet. Dec 24 '12 at 17:33
  • 4
    You forgot bitter (although bottled, sparkling water often is bitter). Generally it tastes of nothing.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 24 '12 at 17:33
  • 5
    Unless it has a specific flavor, water has a neutral taste.
    – Robusto
    Dec 24 '12 at 17:38
  • 2
    salt:salty::water: watery Dec 24 '12 at 19:46
  • 1
    The answers make me think that this question should maybe migrated to biology.SE. Lots of people appear to think that water must taste of nothing but that is simply wrong. Dec 25 '12 at 13:07

Water is flavorless.

The word tasteless is fine also, but in some contexts has certain connotations that flavorless does not, for instance tasteless interior decorating or tasteless joke.

  • This is the right answer.
    – tchrist
    Dec 25 '12 at 0:47

Studies reveal that water tastes like water:

The researchers identified what they call the "three main tastes of water" that can be found if one swigs a great variety of bottled and tap waters. These are "the bitterness of poor mineralised water, the neutral taste (associated with coolness) of water with medium mineralisation and the saltiness and astringency of highly mineralised water."

  • 3
    Are they using "poor mineralised water" to mean "poorly mineralized water"? Because if so, then I'm not sure I trust their word-choice judgments!
    – ruakh
    Dec 25 '12 at 1:37
  • @ruakh Agreed :) Dec 25 '12 at 3:58
  • Mineralised water may well be a compound noun (mineral water and demineralised water certainly are) which would of course license the adjective poor (= poor standard). One could not argue that the use of poorly was wrong here, but one could argue that the adjectival variant was better style. Dec 26 '12 at 20:28
  • @EdwinAshworth The use of highly mineralised water later in the sentence suggests that it's very likely an overlooked error. Dec 26 '12 at 20:31
  • Ah, yes. Reading the whole, it would be putting two different but isoformal constructions too close together. However, now I want the three classes mentioned to be comparable, and would expect lightly / slightly rather than poorly. Dec 26 '12 at 20:44

Water tastes like whatever minerals or flavorings are dissolved in it. It might taste metallic, or fruity. It might even, metaphorically, taste like a brand new day. When there is salt in it, it triggers those taste buds that respond to salt, and thus it tastes salty. Absent anything else, and simply as a function of the perfect blending of some H and some O, water does not trigger taste buds as far as I know. But I guess one could say it "is refreshing."


There are understood to be five basic taste sensations: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. Languages differ in whether they have individual words for each of these sensations. The English word savory, for example, could refer to both salty and umami. Many African languages have a word which is usually translated as "sweet", but which can refer to salty, sweet, and umami flavor. One Yoruba proverb, translated as

...a mouth as sweet as salt

refers to somebody who is very gifted in persuasion. Languages also differ in the extent to which they have words used for describing food textures.

As for flavors which can't be easily classified as falling into one of the five main categories, there is much more variability in the kinds of words which can be found in a language. Referring to the sensation of drinking water would fall outside of the taste vocabulary. You could use a word like watery to describe the mouthfeel, or cool or refreshing to describe its effect on the body.

  • Flavour isn’t only characterised by the tastes discernible by your tongue but also by smells. Dec 25 '12 at 13:05

Water tastes tasteless. Wet is more of a description that is related to feeling or using the sense of touch or touching. Scientifically, plain water is either of neutral taste or tasteless because it is impossible to burn water and the bitter taste only manifests itself when something is or was burned.

  • Tasteless, and odorless, too – if it's pure water.
    – J.R.
    Dec 24 '12 at 23:26
  • @J.R.: it tastes odorless? :-)
    – LarsH
    Dec 25 '12 at 6:05
  • @LarsH: Water is tasteless, colorless, and odorless. I learned that in chemistry class. Besides, odor is very much related to taste.
    – J.R.
    Dec 25 '12 at 7:13
  • 2
    You'd better put it as Water is tasteless.
    – Kris
    Dec 25 '12 at 9:20
  • 1
    Bitterness has little or nothing to do with burning. There are thousands of chemical compounds that taste bitter; only a subclass of them are produced by burning food. Quinine, for instance, is quite bitter and has nothing to do with combustion. (The common thread, as far as science is aware, is chemical structures that are likely to be poisonous.)
    – zwol
    Dec 26 '12 at 5:55

Water surely tastes aquatical, doesn't it?

  • 4
    Oh Lord, But it is Christmas, so +1. Dec 24 '12 at 18:00
  • @TimLymington. Thank you! And a Happy Christmas to you. Dec 24 '12 at 18:01
  • lol this is funny
    – desbest
    Dec 25 '12 at 3:06
  • Oh, come on, down-voter. It was a joke. Dec 25 '12 at 9:26
  • I don't understand this joke, please explain it to me. I did not down vote this answer though.
    – code4eight
    Jan 3 '13 at 4:13

From a purely linguistic standpoint, surely if salt tastes salty then water tastes watery, right?

A lot of the answers seem to presume that water tastes of nothing, or indeed must taste of nothing. That isn’t a linguistic question but a biological one, and its answer isn’t quite as straightforward.

All water that you buy or get from a tap contains a cocktail of various minerals which all modify its taste. Most carbonated mineral waters for instance are slightly sour (simply because the chemical which makes it bubbly, carbonic acid, is sour) but also salty, bitter or sweet, depending on which minerals in it dominate.

Almost pure H2O doesn’t taste of a lot because neither our taste receptors (on the tongue) nor our smell receptors react strongly with the ions that make up pure water. As a consequence, the taste of pure water might be described as very bland compared to a neutral background – because that neutral background would be the natural taste of our mouth which is dominated by saliva. Saliva itself is water with relatively high concentrations of sodium and potassium ions, which themselves taste salty. We are thus accustomed to a slightly salty taste which we perceive as normal, and by comparison pure H2O tastes less salty, and of nothing else – bland.

  • From a purely linguistic standpoint, I haven't found a dictionary mentioning watery as meaning tasting like water whereas it is easy to find a definition of salty of the form tasting like [common] salt. Linguistics is seldom well-behaved. Does a steak taste steaky? Ice icy? Dec 26 '12 at 20:54
  • @Edwin Your explanation is good and I’d subscribe to it 100% but your dictionary research was less complete: Google “define watery”, second meaning. ;-) Dec 26 '12 at 22:31
  • I cannot accept thin or tasteless as a result of containing too much water as a direct equivalent of tasting like water. Salt is salty, but although soup may be described as watery according to the relevant definition, water isn't. Dec 26 '12 at 23:33
  • @Edwin I agree it isn’t a perfect match. But a soup can be described both as salty or watery. In that regard (i.e. to describe that something tastes like X) watery is to water as salty is to salt. Dec 27 '12 at 10:48
  • 1
    If the argument made here is accepted, we'd have to also accept that our judgement of the taste of water is affected by our drinking it from cups that taste cupy, glasses that taste glassy, bottles that taste bottly or straight from streams and wells that taste streamy and welly.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 1 '13 at 2:19

Water is the standard against which taste is measured; something has a taste only if it is different from water (which may of course include water with something added). Air is similar with regard to smell. So 'the taste of water' is meaningless.

  • 1
    What, why? That is simply not true, neither physiologically not chemically. It may be true that we may not be able to taste pure H2O (without minerals) but that’s pure coincidence because we have no specific receptors which recognise the taste of water ions, and there’s nothing inherent in their properties that makes us use water as the taste baseline. If indeed we have a taste baseline then it would be saliva, which is not at all the same taste as most water due to a different mineral composition. Dec 25 '12 at 13:01

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