How the “sausage” is made

Last post, I took the word bacon, well, “back” to its roots. As long as we’re on the subject of processed meats, just how is the sausage made? Sausage, of course, is seasoned meat stuffed into animal intestines. Delicious, no? The secret ingredient is salt, at least etymologically speaking.

"Sausage." Doodle by me.
Etymology cooks the best links. “Sausage.” Doodle by me.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), English starts serving up sausage sometime in the 1400s. Then, it was sausige, among other forms. Scholars root this in the Old Northern French saussiche, which ultimately (by way of Spanish and Italian) derives from the late Latin salsīcia. This is speculated to be a noun formed from *salsīcius, “seasoned with salt” or “prepared by salting.”

The link here – both for sausage as a product and sausage as a word – is salt. Etymologists see *salsīcius as coming from salsus, meaning “salted” and functioning as the adjective form of sal, “salt.” And neither sausage nor the English language went light on this sal.

High salt intake

Sauce derives from sal, again demonstrating that this French dialect was a picky eater when it came to this Latin l. Not so for other derivatives. Salad is from sal as well. How did we go from salt to whole sauces and salads? Why, salt was an important seasoning for and ingredient in various foods – in Latin, salsa means “salted things” – and so the part came to stand for the whole. Dip your chip in that.

Salami, meanwhile, is twisted off from Italian. Many Italian sausages can get spicy: The figurative saucy, sassy (a variant of saucy), and salty are indeed all about that kick.

A saltcellar, or salt shaker, is another derivative of Latin’s sal. Here, the cellar has nothing to do with basements. This cellar derives from the obsolete saler, ultimately going back (via French) to Latin’s salārium, “pertaining to salt,” as the OED explains.

This salārium continues to pay off. As I explored last year in my post on the origin of spice names at Oxford Dictionariessalārium was “originally money allowed to Roman soldiers for the purchase of salt, hence their pay” (OED). And hence, English’s salary.

Chemists know well saltpeter and saline, yet other words generously sprinkled into English from Latin’s sal. So, too, though, the halogens, which can yield salt in chemical reactions. This halo- comes from Greek’s hals (ἅλς), “salt,” pointing us to that earlier linguistic lick of salt: the Proto-Indo-European *sal-, “salt.” Its Germanic derivatives eventually yield souse, silt, and, yes, salt.

Salt helps preserve sausages, and etymologically, sausages preserves the salt.

m ∫ r ∫


5 thoughts on “How the “sausage” is made

  1. Thank you for your link and your post about sausage, most people love sausage, the least known about how it is made seems to be the best solution. out of sight out of mind.

    I remember reading a story many years ago about the sieige of Stalingrad during the second world war. People were starving to death by the thousand, the city was under siege, there was no food able to get in to help people were stranded. It was a bitter cold winter bodies lying on the streets, it was so cold they didn’t decompose. All of a sudden it came to someone’s attention there were fewer bodies on the street. There was a sausage maker in one part of the city somehow supplying people with sausage he kept many of them alive. I don’t recall a very intensive investigation ever being made into how that sausage came about.
    Thank you again your blog and your post on sausage history.


  2. Can’t blame you for trusting the OED about salary, but they weren’t careful enough with that one: there’s no evidence that Roman soldiers got an allowance of money to purchase salt, it’s a conjecture that arose in the 19th century. See Salt and salary: were Roman soldiers paid in salt? for a thorough review of Latin primary sources. I expect the OED Third Edition will fix this old mistake when the entry is revised.

    Liked by 1 person

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