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response to chemical stimulation that enables an organism to detect flavors. In humans and most vertebrate animals, taste is produced by the stimulation by various substances of the taste buds on the mucous membrane of the tonguetongue,
muscular organ occupying the floor of the mouth in vertebrates. In some animals, such as lizards, anteaters, and frogs, it serves a food-gathering function. In humans, the tongue functions principally in chewing, swallowing, and speaking.
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. A taste bud consists of about 20 long, slender cells; a tiny hair projects from each cell to the surface of the tongue through a tiny pore. The taste cells contain the endings of nerve filaments that convey impulses to the taste center in the brain. Five fundamental tastes, or a combination of these, can be detected by the buds: sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and umami. Umami, a savory taste triggered by glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate and associated with protein-rich foods, was identified by Kikunae Ikeda in Japan in the early 20th cent., and umami receptors were only discovered in 1996. Only the buds most sensitive to salty flavor are scattered evenly over the tongue. Sweet-sensitive taste buds are more concentrated on the tip of the tongue, sour flavors at the sides of the tongue, and bitter and umami flavors at the back. The close relationship of taste to smellsmell,
sense that enables an organism to perceive and distinguish the odors of various substances, also known as olfaction. In humans, the organ of smell is situated in the mucous membrane of the upper portion of the nasal cavity near the septum.
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 gives the impression that a greater variety of tastes exists. This is also why an impairment of smell, as during a cold, may impart the feeling that the sense of taste is diminished.
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Taste, or gustation, is one of the senses used to detect the chemical makeup of ingested food—that is, to establish its palatability and nutritional composition. Flavor is a complex amalgam of taste, olfaction (smell), and other sensations, including those generated by mechanoreceptor and thermoreceptor sensory cells in the oral cavity. Taste sensory cells respond principally to the water-soluble chemical stimuli present in food, whereas olfactory sensory cells respond to volatile (airborne) compounds. See Chemical senses, Sensation

The sensory organs of gustation are termed taste buds. In humans and most other mammals, taste buds are located on the tongue in the fungiform, foliate, and circumvallate papillae and in adjacent structures of the throat. There are approximately 5000 taste buds in humans, although this number varies tremendously. Taste buds are goblet-shaped clusters of 50 to 100 long slender cells. Microvilli protrude from the apical (upper) end of sensory cells into shallow taste pores. Taste pores open onto the tongue surface and provide access to the sensory cells. Individual sensory nerve fibers branch profusely within taste buds and make contacts (synapses) with taste bud sensory cells. Taste buds also contain supporting and developing taste cells.

The basic taste qualities experienced by humans include sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. (In some species, pure water also strongly stimulates taste bud cells). A fifth taste, umami, is now recognized by many as distinct from the other qualities. Umami is a Japanese term roughly translated as “good taste” and is approximated by the English term “savory.” It refers to the taste of certain amino acids such as glutamate (as in monosodium glutamate) and certain monophosphate nucleotides. These compounds occur naturally in protein-rich foods, including meat, fish, cheese, and certain vegetables.

The middorsum (middle top portion) of the tongue surface is insensitive to all tastes. Only small differences, if any, exist for the taste qualities between different parts of the tongue. No simple direct relationship exists between chemical stimuli and a particular taste quality except, perhaps, for sourness (acidity). Sourness is due to H+ ions. The taste qualities of inorganic salts are complex, and sweet and bitter tastes are elicited by a wide variety of diverse chemicals.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the sensation arising from the action of solutions of chemical substances on the receptors of the taste buds located on the tongue and on the mucous membrane of the mouth in mammals and in man.

The basic sensations of taste—sour, salty, sweet, and bitter—are determined by the configuration of the molecules of the substance adsorbed on specific taste receptors that have surfaces of a particular form. All complex taste sensations are produced by a combination of the basic tastes. The edges of the tongue are most sensitive to bitter tastes, the tip and the edges to salty tastes, the tip to sweet tastes, and the base of the tongue to bitter tastes. Sour tastes are caused by a concentration of free hydrogen ions which react with the acids in saliva. Sodium chloride is the only substance which has a purely salty taste. As the molecular weight of inorganic salts increases their taste changes from salty to bitter. How-ever, a strict correlation between chemical and physical properties of substances and their taste has not been discovered.

Complex taste sensations are the result of the simultaneous action on nerve centers of information from various receptors of taste, smell, pain, touch, and temperature in the oral cavity. Thus, a burning and spicy taste is caused by the irritation of the pain receptors of the oral cavity. The minimum (threshold) concentrations of solutions that cause taste sensations vary from substance to substance (for example, 0.4 percent for sugar and 0.00005 percent for quinine). With the continued action of a substance on a receptor, physiological adaptation takes place: the sensitivity of the taste receptor to that particular substance is lowered. Adaptation to sweet and salty substances is faster than adaptation to bitter and sour substances. In man and in animals that eat mixed and vegetable food, sweet substances elicit a positive reaction and bitter substances a negative one. The positive taste reaction to sweet substances is absent in carnivores; the negative taste reaction to bitter substances is absent in insectivorous animals.

Taste influences appetite and digestion and is dependent on the physiological condition of an organism. When an organism has an excessive amount of a particular substance (for example, sugar or table salt) a negative taste reaction arises to these substances. A lack of a particular substance raises the sensitivity of the taste receptors to it and stimulates increased demand for the substance. Thus, an injury to the cortex of the adrenal glands accompanied by an increased outflow of sodium from the organism leads to an increased demand for salty food. Children and pregnant women who experience a great need for calcium, phosphorous, sodium, and iron sometimes eat chalk, coal, and so on. There are no precise quantitative criteria for taste sensations, and special tasters determine the quality of such products as wine and cheese.


Bronshtein, A. I. Vkus i obonianie. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Olfaction and Taste, vols. 1-3. Oxford, 1963-69.




(aesthetic), man’s ability to distinguish, understand, and evaluate the beautiful and the ugly in reality and in works of art. Aesthetic taste is a result of long historical development. In the process of social practical activity man’s taste for nature is formed, that is, “a musical ear, an eye for beauty of form, in short, senses which are capable of human gratification—senses affirming themselves as essential powers of man” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels,/z rannikh proizvedenii, 1956, p. 593). Art has a special significance for the inculcation of taste.

In modern aesthetics, until the 19th century, it was argued whether taste was rational or irrational, whether it was based on reason or emotion, whether it was an inherent or a learned ability, and whether its judgments had general or individual significance. In France taste was declared to be a rational phenomenon in the works of N. Boileau, C. Batteux, C. Montesquieu, Voltaire, and others. Beginning with Boileau, who was under the influence of the rationalist philosophy of Descartes, the basis of taste was considered to be the study of the works of antiquity. And verisimilitude, rationality, and clarity were regarded as the main characteristics of taste. In English aesthetics of the 17th and 18th centuries, the concept of taste acquired not only an aesthetic meaning but a moral one as well. According to A. Shaftesbury and H. Home, true taste is determined not by the mind and knowledge but by character and the harmonious balance of various feelings within man. Taste is manifested not in adherence to constrictive rules but in a sense of truth and in accordance with truth and nature. The English philosophers F. Hutcheson and, later, E. Burke affirmed the universality of aesthetic taste, a universality which is rooted in the common psychophysiological nature of all people. D. Hume stressed the subjectivity of taste (“matters of taste cannot be argued”).

I. Kant in his Critique of Judgment (1790) pointed out the basic difficulty of establishing a theory of taste. Taste must be recognized as being simultaneously both social and individual, as both binding for all and depending only on the character of a given individual, and as not subject to rational laws. No logical proof or explanations can make a person accept as beautiful that which he does not find pleasing. At the same time, taste by its definition asserts that what is beautiful to some people should be beautiful for all. This contradiction, according to Kant, cannot be resolved; “rules of taste” cannot be formulated theoretically, and taste can develop only through constant, direct perception of great works of art, which set the standards for taste. G. Hegel criticized the universalization of the concept of taste, particularly as applied to the evaluation and perception of artistic works.

In treating of taste, Marxist-Leninist aesthetics rejects the abstract establishment of norms and regards taste as an expression of man’s sociohistorical culture, which is manifested in all areas of human life, in artistic creation, in the varied aspects of work, in everyday life, and in the behavior of people. Regarding the expression of taste as not only the ability to contemplate and passively evaluate but above all as the ability to create, Marxist aesthetics overcomes the contemplative approach in interpreting taste that was characteristic of the Enlightenment aesthetics of the 18th century. Marxist aesthetics emphasizes the active nature of taste and asserts that it is determined by social factors. According to K. Marx, “an art object … creates a public which under-stands art … and which is capable of enjoying beauty” (K. Marx and F. Engels,S0c/z., 2nd ed., vol. 12, p. 718). The formation and development of taste is the function of aesthetic upbringing. Among problems of the sociology of taste, great significance is being attached to concrete investigation of the influence of media of mass communication upon the formation of aesthetic judgments.


Matsa, I. L. Ob esteticheskom vkuse. Moscow, 1963.
Istoriia estetiki, vol. 2. Moscow, 1964. Pages 93-100, 140-43, 160-62, 166-72, 274, 284-88, 295-97, 299-307, 362-64, 383-90, 407-09, 491-92, 571-75, 804, 818.
Losev, A. F., and V. P. Shestakov. Istoriia esteticheskikh kategorii. Moscow, 1965. Pages 25&-93.
Chambers, F. P. The History of Taste. New York, 1932.
Weisbach, W. Vom Geschmack und seinen Wandlungen. Basel, 1947.
Ziegenfuss, W. Die Überwindung des Geschmacks. Potsdam, 1949.
Delia Volpe, G. Critic a de gusto. Milan, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A chemical sense by which flavors are perceived depending on taste, tactile, and warm and cold receptors in the mouth, as well as smell receptors in the nose.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. the sense by which the qualities and flavour of a substance are distinguished by the taste buds
2. the sensation experienced by means of the taste buds
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(primarily MIT) The quality of a program that tends to be inversely proportional to the number of features, hacks, and kluges it contains. Taste refers to sound judgment on the part of the creator. See also elegant, flavour.


Alternative spelling of "tayste".
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