Why do we call a solution that has been centrifuged a supernatant? It seems to me that a "natant" should be something that floats (from Latin "natare" meaning "to swim"), and a "supernatant" should be something which lies above the natant, not below it. Shouldn't the liquid be called a subnatant? Or maybe a superprecipitate?

Edit: fixed Latin (see below)


1 Answer 1


It means "the liquid that swims above", from the Latin terms super = above and natare = to swim. So it is the liquid that remains on top.

The subnatant would be the liquid at the bottom, in case you should centrifuge two liquid phases.

The term you name, nato, means son in Latin.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ OK, so it is "swimming above" the precipitate and not "above" something that is "swimming", such as a floating pellet. That makes more sense! $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2018 at 0:00

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