What does “sooth” in “soothsayer” mean?

Some compound words in English seem weird because the first part of the
compound has disappeared from the language, but the compound lives on. What
does the word “sooth” in “soothsayer” mean? “sooth” comes from Old English
sōþ, from Proto Germanic *sanþaz and they both mean “true, real”.

Soothsayers were basically truth-tellers, they would tell the future and
people trusted that the future they were being told would become true. Proto
Germanic *sanþaz became “sannr” in Old Norse, and “sann” in Swedish. So
“sann” and “sooth” are actually cognate. “soothe” is derived from “sooth” and
this word still exists in the language.

“soothe” meant “to verify” in Middle English before going on to mean “to
calm”. “soothe” is cognate with Swedish “sanna” which means “to verify”.

Steve the vagabond

About Steve the vagabond

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