Today’s Post Brought to You by the Consonent S and the Vowel A

Sagacity……1540s, from M.Fr. sagacité, from L. sagacitatem (nom. sagacitas) “quality of being acute,” from sagax (gen. sagacis) “of quick perception,” related to sagus “prophetic,” sagire “perceive keenly,” from PIE base *sag- “to track down, trace, seek” (cf. O.E. secan “to seek;” see seek). Also used 17c.-18c. of animals, meaning “acute sense of smell.”

Savvy……1785, as a noun, “practical sense, intelligence;” also a verb, “to know, to understand;” W. Indies pidgin borrowing of Fr. savez(-vous)? “do you know?” or Sp. sabe (usted) “you know,” both from V.L. *sapere, from L. sapere “be wise, be knowing” (see sapient). The adj. is first recorded 1905, from the noun.

Salient……1562, “leaping,” a heraldic term, from L. salientem (nom. saliens), prp. of salire “to leap,” from PIE base *sel- “to jump” (cf. Gk. hallesthai “to leap,” M.Ir. saltraim “I trample,” and probably Skt. ucchalati “rises quickly”). The meaning “pointing outward” (preserved in military usage) is from 1687; that of “prominent, striking” first recorded 1840, from salient point (1672), which refers to the heart of an embryo, which seems to leap, and translates L. punctum saliens, going back to Aristotle’s writings. Hence, the “starting point” of anything.

Sanguine……1319, “type of red cloth,” from O.Fr. sanguin (fem. sanguine), from L. sanguineus “of blood,” also “bloody, bloodthirsty,” from sanguis (gen. sanguinis) “blood” (see sanguinary). Meaning “blood-red” is recorded from 1382. Meaning “cheerful, hopeful, confident” first attested 1509, since these qualities were thought in medieval physiology to spring from an excess of blood as one of the four humors.

Sarcasm……1579, from L.L. sarcasmos, from Gk. sarkasmos “a sneer, jest, taunt, mockery,” from sarkazein “to speak bitterly, sneer,” lit. “to strip off the flesh,” from sarx (gen. sarkos) “flesh,” prop. “piece of meat,” from PIE base *twerk- “to cut” (cf. Avestan thwares “to cut”). Sarcastic is from 1695. For nuances of usage, see humor.

Sardonic……1630s, from Fr. sardonique (16c.), from L. sardonius (but as if from L. *sardonicus) in Sardonius risus, loan-translation of Gk. sardonios (gelos) “of bitter or scornful (laughter),” altered from Homeric sardanios (of uncertain origin) by influence of Sardonios “Sardinian,” because the Greeks believed that eating a certain plant they called sardonion (lit. “plant from Sardinia,” see Sardinia) caused facial convulsions resembling those of sardonic laughter, usually followed by death. For nuances of usage, see humor. Related: Sardonically.

Sadism……”love of cruelty,” 1888, from Fr. sadisme, from Count Donatien A.F. de Sade (1740-1815). Not a marquis, though usually now called one, he was notorious for cruel sexual practices he described in his novels.

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Published in: on 18 February 2010 at 9:35 am  Leave a Comment  

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