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 ∫