ETYMOLOGY OF SARCASM


Salutations, fellow lexophiles! I’m sure you’ll just love where the word “sarcasm” comes from. This video has been brought to you by etymologynerd.com. Along with a myriad of post-Renaissance borrowed words, “sarcasm” came to us in the late sixteenth century from the Latin word sarcasmus, with the same meaning. This in turn derives from the Ancient Greek word sarkasmos, mainly meaning a “sneer”, with a side definition of “mockery”, which is still not too different from the modern day word. Now the etymology takes an interesting turn, as we go back to another Ancient Greek word, sarkazein, which had many layers of sarcastic meaning. On the surface, it meant “gnashing teeth”, something one does when they sneer. However, literally speaking, it means “tearing flesh”, an act that was disturbingly associated with teeth. This in turn is from the word sarx, meaning “flesh”, which, through Proto-Hellenic, ultimately derives from the Proto-Indo-European root twerk, which meant “to cut”, ironically bringing us a little closer to today’s meaning once more.

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