Source: Your “palate” is the roof of your mouth, and by extension, your sense of taste.

I was reading Etymonline's entry for palatable {adj.}, which cites and derives from palate {noun}:

... Popularly considered the seat of taste, hence transferred meaning "sense of taste" (late 14c.), which also was in classical Latin. ...

Are the quotes above factually right about mouth anatomy (I ask NOT about language here)? Or was this an outdated wrong idea?

Footnote: Did the etymology become corrupt? I heed the Etymological Fallacy.


2 Answers 2


Anatomically speaking, the palate is the roof of the mouth, separating the oral cavity (mouth) from the nasal cavity (inner nose). While the palate may be sensitive to heat and spiciness (via the capsaicin receptor, for example), it does not contain any taste buds, which are located on the tongue, and are part of the taste-sensing system. The other part of this system, olfactory receptors, are responsible for sensing odors, and are mainly located in the nasal cavity, as well as partway down the back of the throat.

So, unfortunately, while your palate is figuratively the center of your sense of taste, in reality it has almost nothing to do with it.


Although @MattDMo's post rightfully suggests that gustatory senses are achieved primarily by lingual taste buds and olfactory nerves, he has actually missed that there ARE in-fact palatal taste buds.

See Simpson's (2018) chapter in Fundamental Neuroscience for Basic and Clinical Applications (5th Ed).

Additional taste buds are located on the human soft palate, oral and laryngeal pharynx, larynx, and upper esophagus. Extralingual taste buds are not located in papillae but rather are situated in the epithelium. Palatal taste buds are located at the juncture of the hard and soft palates and on the soft palate

See Nilsson 1979.

There is some uncertainty in the literature as to the existence of taste buds in the palate of the human adult. In those histologic studies in which the ages of the individuals have been reported, taste buds have not been found in the palates of adults, but have been found in fetuses or newborn. However, clinical studies have demonstrated taste perception in the palate of the human adult. Thus, the aim of the present study was to attempt to find taste buds in the human palate in subjects of different ages. In serial sections of selected areas of the palatal mucosa from autopsy material from individuals 0–80 years of age no taste buds could be demonstrated. However, in four of seven subjects aged 25–44 years, one or two taste buds were found in biopsis from areas of the soft palate where taste perception had been demonstrated clinically just prior to excision. Thus the present study indicates that scattered taste buds exist also in the soft palate of human adults.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's very interesting. I stand corrected. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Oct 20, 2021 at 21:55

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