S

saga: Story that relates events across many years; Norse myths. From Old Norse “saga”=story, history; similar to Old English “sagu”=a saying.

sail: Cloth attached to a boat to catch the wind and move the boat along. From Old English “segl”=sail < possibly Latin “secare”=cut.

saints: Extremely holy people formally recognized as such by a church. From Old French “seinte” < Latin “sancire”=to consecrate or ratify.

salacious: Appealing to or stimulating sexual desire. From Latin “salire”=to leap or move spasmodically, as a male animal on a female in sex.

salami: Highly salted and flavored type of Italian sausage. Latin “salare”=to salt.”

sale: Using money to transfer the ownership of an item. From Old English “sala”=sale < “sellan”=to give or hand over.

salmonella: Bacteria that causes food poisoning. Eponym from Daniel Salmon (1850-1914) + Latin “-ella”=common suffix for bacterial names.

salubrious: Favorable to health of mind or body. Latin “salubris”=health + “-ous”=suffix meaning “abounding in” or “full of.”

samba: Brazilian dance of step-close-step-close, then a dip+spring upward at each beat. Perhaps from Kikongo “semba”=enchanting.

sand: Substance consisting of tiny pieces of rocks that forms beaches and deserts. From Old English “sand” > perhaps Greek “amathos”=sand.

Santa: Mythic deliverer of gifts to good children on Christmas Eve. From Middle Dutch “Sinter Niklaas”=Saint Nicholas.

sarcastic: Form of wit that relies on biting/caustic comments; described as “the lowest form of wit.” From Greek “sarkazein”=to tear flesh.

sasquatch: Mythical hairy human-like creature said to inhabit NW United States and W.Canada. From Salish “sæsq’ec”=wild men.

Saturday: Day of the week from Old English “saternsdag”=Saturn’s Day. Partially from Latin “Saturnus,” god of agriculture > “satus”=to sow.

saturnine: Gloomy and sad. From Latin “Saturnus”=god of agriculture. Astrological traits of people born under the planet Saturn.

scam: To deliberately cheat or swindle. Possibly from English slang “scamp”=cheater or highway robber.

scatology: The study of feces. From Greek “scat”=dung + “-ology”=science of study of…

scatomancy: telling the future using dung. Not popular with walk-in psychics. From Greek “scat”=dung + “-manteia”-prophet/seer.

schadenfreude: pleasure at someone else’s misfortune. From German “schaden”-harm + “freude”-joy.

schlong: a penis. Yiddish slang. From German “schlange”=snake.

scold: To angrily criticize someone. From Old Norse “skald”=poet. Sense of “criticize” comes from poets making verse that ridiculed people.

scourge: Something that causes a lot of harm or suffering. Old French “escorgiee” < Latin “ex-“=take off + “corium”=hide/skin.

scribble: To write or draw hastily or carelessly. Latin “scribere”=to write. Related to Greek “skarifasthai”=to scratch.

scrupulous: Doing something very carefully. From Latin “scrupulus”=anxious < diminitive of “scrupus”=rough pebble. Pricking of conscience.

second: Time needed for cesium-133 atom to perform 9,192,631,770 oscillations. From Middle Latin “secunda pars minuta”=sixtieth of a minute.

seduce: To persuade someone to stray from a righteous path; to beguile or entice. Latin “se-“=apart or without + ducere”=to lead.

sedulous: Marked by care and persistent effort. From Latin “sedulus”=careful + “-ous”=suffix meaning “full of” or “abounding in.”

seminar: Small meeting and discussions on a specific subject. From Latin “seminarium”=breeding ground < “semen”=seed.

seminary: College for teaching priests and/or ministers. Latin “seminarium”=seed plot < Greek “semen”=seed.

senate: Second chamber in two-group political assembly. From Latin “senatus”=council of elders < “senex”=old man/old.

serenade: Song or music played in the open air, esp. a man to his woman. From Italian “serenata”=evening song < Latin “serenus”=calm.

serendipity: a happy accident. From 1754 Persian fairy tale “The 3 Princes of Serendip” who “were always making discoveries by accident.”

serpent: Scaly, limbless reptile usually characterized as hissing and poisonous. From Latin “serpens”=creeping things < “sepere”=to creep

service: Work done for others as an occupation or business, often for pay. From Latin “servus”=slave or servant. Hence one who serves provides a service.

servile: Behave in a fawning, cringing, slavish manner. From Latin “servus”=slave + “-ile”=adj-creating suffix meaning “in the manner of.”

sesquipedalian: Given to using long words. Latin “sesquipedalis” < “sesqui”=one-and-a-half < “ped”=foot. Lit. words a foot and half long.

sexting: Sending sexual text or images via cell phones. Portmanteau of “sexual” + “texting.”

shady: Of dubious character or honesty; questionable. From Old English “sceadu”=shade, shadow, or darkness.

shop: To look for goods or services with intent to buy. From Old English “sceoppa”=place of work (shed or booth).

shore: Land bordering the sea or a large lake or river. From Middle English “schore”=sea marsh or land washed by sea.

shrimp: Small sea crustacean, often edible, which has ten legs and a soft shell. From Old Norse “skorpna”=to shrivel up.

siege: Collection of herons (1452). The notion of the bird “sitting on watch.” From Old French “sege”=seat < Latin “sedem”=seat.

sinecure: Position or office with no real responsibility; paid for little work!. From Latin “sine”=without + “cura”=care.

sinker: Weight used in fishing to make sure the hook goes under the water. From Old English “sincan”=to submerge or go under.

sinners: Those who acts against divine laws. From Old English “syngian”=to perform a sinful act. Possibly < Latin “sontis”=guilty.

sisyphean: Fruitless or endless toil. From “Sisyphus,” Corinthean king condemned in Hades to roll a stone up a hill, which would roll back.

sketch: Rough drawing; draught picture. Most likely from Latin “schedium”=extemporaneous poem < Greek “skethios”=off-hand, extempore.

skill: A learned ability or aptitude. From Old Norse “skil”=distinction or knowledge. Similar to Old English “scylian”=to separate.

skip: Jump or leap lightly; to jump over. From Old Norse “skopa”=skip or run.

skulk: Collection of foxes (1450), or any group that skulks. From Norwegian “skulka”=lurk or Danish “skulke”/Swedish “skolka”=shirk.

slacker: One who avoid work or exercise. From Old English “sleac”=lazy, careless + “-ere”=one who. Related to Latin “laxus”=loose.

slander: False oral statement against a person. Old French “esclandre” < Latin “scandalum”=cause of offence < Greek “skandalon”=a trap.

sleep: Natural suspension of consciousness to enable the body to be restored. From Old English “slæpan”=to sleep.

slumber: To sleep lightly or to lie dormant as if sleeping. From Old English “sluma”=light sleep.

snack: A small amount of food; a sample. Probably Middle Dutch or Flemish “snacken”=to snap like a dog.

snick: To cut, snip, or nick. Probably shortened form of “snick-or-snee”=fight with knives < Dutch “steken”=thrust + “snijden”=cut.

snowmageddon: Intense, paralyzing snowfall. Over-dramatic use by the media. Portmanteau of Old English “snow” + Hebrew “Armageddon.”

snowpocalypse: Intense, paralyzing snowfall. Over-dramatic use by the media. Portmanteau of Old English “snaw” + Greek “apokalyptein.”

sob: To weep aloud with convulsive catching of breath. From Middle English “sobben”similar to Old English “seofian”=to lament.

soboliferous: Bearing shoots, usually from the ground. From Latin “soboles” < “sub”=under + ?”olere”=to grow + “-ferous”=producing.

soccer: Game between two teams who try to kick a ball into an opponent’s goal. Shortened form of “Association” (“socc”) + “-er.” Latin “associare.”

sobriquet: Descriptive name for a person or place e.g. Slick Willy=Bill Clinton. From Middle French “sobriquet”=tap under the chin.

sojourn: A small stay in some location; a vacation or break. From Latin “sub”=under + “diurnus”=day. TheWordGuy is sojourning.

soon: In a short future period of time or promptly. From Old English “sona”=immediately.

sorry: Feeling ashamed or unhappy about something bad you have done. From Old English “sarig”=distressed, sorrowful.

specious: Based on pretense; deceptively pleasing. Latin “speciosus”=fair, beautiful < “specere”=to look.

spectre: Ghost, apparition, or phantom. From Latin “spectrum”=appearance < “specere”=to look or see.

spinster: Woman who has never married. From Middle English “spinnen”=to spin + “-stere”=feminine suffix. Literally thread spinner.

spoon: eating utensil with a handle and a small bowl into which food will fit. From Old English “spon”=a chip or thin splinter of wood.

sprout: To grow or shoot forth like a plant. From Old English “sprutan”=to sprout. Related to “spryttan”=to sprout or germinate.

spurious: Something not based on facts or logical thinking, likely to be incorrect. Latin “spurius”=illegitimate, false.

squabble: To argue noisily, usually over something trivia or unimportant. From Scandinavian (prob. Swedish) “skvabbel”=quarrel.

staple: Commodity for which the demand is constant e.g. flour, sugar, water. From Middle Dutch “stapel”=market/emporium.

stationary: In one place; not moving. From Latin “stationem”=job, position, or post.

stationery: Items such as pens, pencils, paper, glue, and envelopes. From Middle Latin “stationarius”=one who sells stationery.

star: Natural luminous body visible in the sky at night. From Old English “steorra”=star. c.f. Latin “stella.”

staycation: a stay-at-home vacation. A portmanteau word from “stay” and “vacation.” Coined in 2003 in a Myrtle Beach Sun-News article.

steal: To take or appropriate without right or leave and with intent to keep. From Old English “stelan”=to commit theft.

stereotype: Preconceived idea of what a person or thing is like. Originally a metal printing plate. From Greek “stereo”=solid + “typos”=type.

stipple: To paint/engrave by small short dots to produce an even or softly graded shadow. From Dutch “stippen”=to speckle.

stock: Rear handle or support of a gun to which the barrel and mechanism are attached. From Old English “stocc”=tree trunk or post.

stoic: Showing patient endurance. From Greek “stoikos”=porch/step < “stoa”=step from where philosopher Xeno taught

strange: Unusual, not normal, extraordinary. From Old French “etrange”=foreign < Latin “extraneus”=that which is outside.

strangeness: Property describing decay of particles in strong and electro-magnetic reactions. From Old French “estrange”=strange/odd.

stratagem: Trick used to outwit an enemy or opponent. From Greek “stratagema”=a piece of generalship < “strategos”=general.

strident: Loud, harsh, shrill voice. From Latin “stridentem= “stridere”=to creak.

stuffed: Full of food e.g. after Christmas lunch. From Old French “estoffe”=padded material < Old High German “stopfen”=plug.

stygian: Extremely dark, gloomy, or forbidding. From Greek “stigios” < related to the river “Styx” < “stignos”=hateful and gloomy.

subaltern: Inferior in rank or status. Latin “sub-“=below, under + “alternus”=alternate, one after.

sublime: Inspiring awe usually because of beauty, nobility, grandeur or excellence. From Latin “sublimis” > “sub”=up to + “limen”=lintel.

subterfuge: Something intended to misrepresent the truth. Latin “subterfugere” < “subter”= secretly + “fugere”=to flee.

succeed: To achieve a desired goal or objective. From Latin “succedere”=to come close after < “sub”=after + “cedere”=to go.

succubus: Female demon that has sex with sleeping men. From Latin “succuba”=strumpet < “sub-“=under + “cubare”=to lie. Lit. “to lie under.”

summer: Second season of the year, bewteen Spring and Fall/Autumn. Old English “sumor” < Sanskrit “sama”=half-year, season.

summit: The highest point or part, usually geographical. From Latin “summus”=highest.

Sunday: Day of the week from Old English “sunnandag”=”sunne”=sun + “dag”=day.

supper: Early/late evening meal, or in British English, snack before bed. From Old French “”super” < “souper”=to eat supper.

surgery: Medical procedure to remove/fix body parts. From Old French “surgerie” < Greek “kheirourgos” < “kheiro”=hand” + “ergon”=work.

swarm: Cloud of bees or other insects. From Old English “swearm” < possibly Sanskrit “svarti”=sounds/resounds.

swine: Stout-bodied short-legged omnivores of the Suidae family. Pigs, hogs, boars. From Old English “swin”=hog.

swollen: Increased in size from internal pressure. From Old English “swellan” (past participle “swollen”)=to grow, swell.

sycophancy: Mean or servile flattery. Latin “sycophantia” < Greek “sikofantis” < “sikos”=fig + “fainein”=to show. Literally “fig shower.”

symphony: Long piece of music, usually in four parts. Latin “symphonia”=instrumental harmony < Greek “syn”=together + “phoni”=sound.

symposium: Meeting or conference for discussion of some subject. From Greek “syn”=together + “ponen”=to drink. Literally a drinking party.

syncope: Shortening a word by taking sounds from the middle e.g. “camra” for “camera.” From Greek “syn”=together +”koptein”=to cut.

synchronicity: Simultaneous occurrence of events that appear to be connected. Greek “syn”=together + “khronos”=time + “-ity”=quality of.

synchronous: Happening at the same time. From Latin “synchronus” < Greek “sinkronos” < “sin”=together + “khronos”=time.

synonym: Word with same meaning as another e.g. drunk/inebriated. From Greek “syn”=together + “onyma”=name.

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