"medicinal ointment or adhesive preparation for external use on wounds and sores," Old English sealf "healing ointment," from West Germanic *salbo- "oily substance" (source also of Old Saxon salba, Middle Dutch salve, Dutch zalf, Old High German salba, German salbe "ointment"), from PIE *solpa-, from root *selp- "fat, butter" (source also of Greek elpos "fat, oil," Albanian gjalpë "butter," Sanskrit sarpis "melted butter"). Beekes, however, sees a Pre-Greek word.
The figurative sense of "something to soothe" wounded pride, etc. is from 1736; earlier figurative use was as "a spiritual or religious remedy" (12c.).
"apply medicinal or sacramental ointment to," Middle English salven, from Old English sealfian "anoint (a wound) with salve," from Proto-Germanic *salbojanan (source also of Dutch zalven, Old Frisian salva, German salben, Gothic salbon "to anoint"), from the root of salve (n.).
Figurative use is by late 12c. in reference to sin or vice; the non-religious sense of "to help, remedy, atone for" is by 1570s. Related: Salved; salving.
"to save from loss at sea," as a ship or goods, 1706, a back-formation from salvage (n.) or salvable. Related: Salved; salving.
updated on December 05, 2021