mid-13c. (late 12c. as a surname), of animals, "ferocious;" c. 1300, "wild, undomesticated, untamed," also "wild, uncultivated" (of land or places), from Old French sauvage, salvage "wild, savage, untamed, strange, pagan," from Late Latin salvaticus, alteration (vowel assimilation) of silvaticus "wild, woodland," literally "of the woods," from silva "forest, grove" (see sylvan).
Of persons, "indomitable, valiant," also "fierce, bold, cruel" (c. 1300); from late 14c., of persons or behavior, "wild, barbarous, uncivilized;" c. 1400 as "reckless, ungovernable," and by 1610s as "pertaining to or characteristic of savage peoples, living in the lowest condition of development." In heraldry, "naked or clothed in foliage" (1570s). The -l- often was restored in 16c.-17c. English spelling.
c. 1400, "wild person, human being from an uncivilized region or a tribe or race of the lowest state of development," from savage (adj.). From c. 1600 as "unfeeling, brutal, or cruel person," whether civilized or not.
"to tear with the teeth, maul," 1838, originally of animals (a bull, here "to gore with the horns"), from savage (adj.) or savage (n.). In late 19c. especially of horses, in reference to attacks on a person or other horse or animal.
He was up a second or so before me, and rushed at me open-mouthed ; but, on my getting on my legs, he stopped. No doubt, had I remained prostrate, he would have savaged me. I never liked a bad countenance before this, but I then resolved I would never buy another ; and I have kept my word. ["Harry Hieover," "Things Worth Knowing about Horses," London, 1859]
Earlier in a now-obsolete sense of "to act the savage, indulge in barbarism or cruelty" (1560s), also "to make savage" (1610s). Related: Savaged; savaging.
1530s, from Latin truculentus "fierce, savage, stern, harsh, cruel," from trux (genitive trucis) "fierce, rough, savage, wild," perhaps from a suffixed form of PIE root *tere- (2) "cross over, pass through, overcome." Related: Truculently.
Latin phrase from Swift's epitaph; "savage indignation;" an intense feeling of contemptuous anger at human folly.