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”.

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