Monday, February 18, 2008

THE CASE OF "SAP" PIE FROM BASE *SAB- & C. ARABIC "SAB" - LexiLine Journal 478

Ishinan wrote:

Part of a series of investigations reexamining aspects of the relationship between IE and Semitic, by considering in detail derivations of areas where inferences were made about words which were common to the homeland of the Indo-European-speaking people before the period of migrations took them to the different localities.
Best viewed (including the various dictionary entries) by clicking the following URL:


In this segment the focus is on the term "sap", a generic word which means:
"The watery fluid that circulates through a plant, carrying food and other substances to the various tissues. A watery solution of sugars, salts, and minerals that circulates through the vascular system of a plant. The fluid contents of a plant cell vacuole."
IE etymologists have conjectured a connection with Latin sapere to taste, sapor.

SAP (n.1) "liquid in a plant," O.E. sæp c. 900 AD., from P.Gmc. *sapom (cf. M.L.G., M.Du., Du. sap, O.H.G. saf, Ger. Saft "juice" Fr.: sève , Norw.: sevje, Port.: seiva, Sp.: saba, Sw.: sav, Icel.: safi , from PIE *sapon- (cf. L. sapere "to taste"), from base *sab- "juice, fluid" (cf. Sanskrit: SABAR (milk , nectar, only in comp. and prob. connected with Germ. {saf} , {Saft} Angl.Sax. {soep} ; Eng. {sap} ; perhaps also with Lat. {sapio} , {sapor}).

While French dictionaries like "Centre National de Ressources Textualles et Lexicales" quoting Pliny have explicitly stated that the term "sap" is from the Latin sapa ( Du lat. class. sapa « vin cuit (jusqu'à réduction de la moitié, selon Varron, ou des deux tiers, selon Pline) »; devait signifier propr. « suc, sève ».)
In this respect, the classical sources describes sapa as new wine boiled down to a proportion of its original volume" (vin cuit). However, the Latin term refers to the defrutum, a reduction of must used by cooks and others in ancient Rome. It was made by boiling down grape juice or must (freshly squeezed grapes) in large kettles until it had been reduced by at least half, which then was used to provide the necessary sugar for the fermentation of weaker wines or to make others sweeter still. The sweetest defrutum was further boiled down into an even stronger concentrate called sapa.
This explanation hardly translates to "sap" (the watery fluid that circulates through a plant). The OED concurs with the objection to this suggestion:
"the hypothesis that the W. Ger. word was adopted from Latin sapa is improbable in view of its relation to the Scandinavian synonym; besides , the assumed development of meaning in popular Latin ( of which the Rom. words afford the only evidence) appears unlikely unless as a result of extraneous influence)"
In my opinion, it would not be a surprise that the Latin sapa was a loan word from the Ancient Egyptian "sf" which also means to boil, to cook, macerate i.e. in short a term describing the same process of the reduction of must used by cooks in ancient Rome.
Instead of the Latin sapa, a more suitable cognate term for "sap" would be the following examples in Sanskrit which have never been advanced:
SAVA: pressing out the juice of the Soma plant pouring it out, the juice or honey of flowers savalat : the plant yielding Soma-juice. savana: 1 n. ) the act of pressing out the Soma-juice (performed at the three periods of the day) the pressed out Soma-juice and its libation, a Soma festival, any oblation or sacrificial rite.
Moreover, the Skrt. SAVA would appear to be compatible with Old French: SÈVE, subst. fém.: Étymol. et Hist. 1. 1er quart xiiie s. [ms.] « suc nourricier des plantes » , O.E séaw sap, juice, moisture, humor. and Sw: sav. sap.
Finally, it would be instructive to find out that the term "sap" is not exclusively an IE word since it is equally found in Classical Arabic, where sab (sad+'Alif+ba') refers to the expressed juice (sap) of a kind of a bitter tree and/or the sap of the Sabir (the much coveted aloe plant, which is native of the Socotra island). Compare with PIE from base *sab-
The base meaning of the root of the Arabic sab is pouring out, forth or down. (1) Hence, in addition to sap, it refers to what was poured forth, of sweat, and of blood. The expressed juice of dragon's blood mentioned in the Eldest Lady's tale of the Arabian nights (2). The sap of the leaves of sesame or some other plant. Finally a certain red dye which is a match for the term sapo, a red dye (3).
The first occurrence of the word "sap" is found in OE. in Cynewulf Crist c. 900 A.D.
As for the Sanskrit "sabar", the word is found in Ancient Egyptian. The well-known oldest description of aloe "Sabar " is found in the Egyptian papyrus of Ebers in 1,500 BC. The papyrus detailed more than 12 remedies with "Sabar". These Egyptian documents declare that the curative values of the Sabar were known many centuries ago extensively. In fact the AE Sabar (aloe) is said to relieve headaches, soothes chest pains, burns, ulcers and for skin disease and allergies.
See JPEG of the entry of the Ancient Egyptian word.
The Egyptian queens, and the well known beauties Nefertiti and Cleopatra, used it as part of their regular beauty regimes.
History tells that Aristotle advised Alexander (356-323 BC) before initiating the Eastern campaign, to conquer the island of Socotra to provide itself with Aloe with which to cure the wounds of its troops in combat.
In century I AD, the Greek physician Dioscórides, while accompanying Nero´s army, extensively described Aloe's medicinal and cosmetic uses and its qualities. In Chapter 23 of his book III, it makes reference to the aloe and defines the main characteristics.
The Arabs, enthusiastic propagators of the medicinal use of the Sabbar /sabir (aloe) and great consumers of it, took it to their campaigns in Europe in early medieval times where they grew it on extensive plantations in Malaga, Andalusia and Sicily. Today Sabar or aloes are frequently planted in Muslim cemeteries (4) . In Hebrew, the word Sabra is a slang term used to describe a native-born Israeli Jew. (5)
History teaches us that past civilizations emerged separately. At times, through interaction, these civilizations converged, effectively leading to an amalgamation forming a new hybrid civilization, and then eventually diverged again. This process, which is continuing in a perpetual sequence of convergence and divergence, is reflected in languages. Case in point is the recurrent similarities of the term "sap" and its derivatives in different languages. These similarities not only attest to the antiquity of the term, but also points to its wide distribution across IE and AA (including Semitic) languages. The only dissimilarity is how linguists of each language group view it as its own proto word.
February 17th , 2008

That the "IE etymologists have conjectured a connection with Latin sapere to taste, sapor" is of course typical for them. The critical clue to the etymology of this word is found in your citation of "Sanskrit: SABAR (milk , nectar, only in comp. and prob. connected with Germ. {saf} , {Saft} Angl.Sax. {soep} ; Eng. {sap} ; perhaps also with Lat. {sapio} , {sapor}). "

As I wrote long ago at my website LexiLine at
ancient Sumerian SUB meant "to suck, suckle (i.e. to teeth)"
i.e. to provide the "sap" of the "milk" of the breasts to the suckling child.
Sumerian SUB = Latvian ZUOB- "tooth, teeth" viz. "gums" (smaganas).

With time, SAP viz. *SAB came to define the exudate (squeezed out, to squeeeze, SPIEsst- in Latvian) from living things, or, vice versa, the origin is related to the concept of life itself as the "inner juices" of a living thing. Life in Latvian is DZIVE with cognates such as DABA <*DZABA "nature", from which SAPA could derive and whence foods made of exudates such as SOUP or non-food products made of the exudates of plants such as SOAP.

A linguistic relation to "taste" as one of the senses is only present at a distance. What the Indo-Europeanist linguists do not know and have never had an interest to learn is that the various words for the senses and tastes is dissimilated in Latvian to only a very small degree, whence Latvian:

(iz)SALCIS - hungry
SALD- sweet
SALIT- salty
SALIT- to get wet
SALT - to freeze
SVILT - to burn
SAJUT - to sense
SAUSS - dry
SURS - sour
SULA - juice

Ishinan, your idea is good at the core that Latin sapa was a loan word from the Ancient Egyptian "sf" "boil, to cook, macerate" and I think this is related to Latvian cep- "to cook, roast, etc." but where I believe the root there is in Latvian "kup-" viz. kvep- which essentialy means "to smoke, to steam" on a fire as opposed to Latvian var- "to boil".

Sabar will be related to "the Hebrew word tzabar (cf. Arabic Sabbar), the name of the "prickly pear" cactus ... a tenacious, thorny desert plant." The origin of this plant name is more likely to be related to the Latvian term ZUBUR- meaning "branched, thorny, pronged".

Sabra as a term for the Hebrews might be cognate to "Sabaer" (people of Saba). See

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