Perhaps it’s no surprise on the Monday following Holy Week that forsake has come up–I daresay many of us heard again in the last few days Jesus’ lament upon the cross. It was some silly wordplay, however, that made me wonder as to the word’s etymology. Yesterday in the car, I said something about “For your sake” to my husband, and he replied with “You’re forsaking me?” with an exaggerated pout.

First time I’d ever really paid attention to the two parts of that word! So this being me, I immediately wondered if they’re from the same root.

The amazing part being that I remembered to look it up this morning. 😉

So first off, forsake and sake are indeed from the same word. Both are present in Old English, and probably came from Norse, as there are similar words in other Nordic languages. Sake has always meant “purpose,” the original form being sacu. It was actually originally applied to a legal cause or case. So to say “for someone’s sake” would mean for their cause, for their case. (Interestingly that phrase is pretty much the only one in which the word has been preserved.) But it would also take on the other side of the legal coin and mean “accusation, blame, dispute.”

Forsake then combines that opposition sense of sake with Old English for-, which meant “completely.” Forsacan, the Old English word, literally meant “to object to, deny, refuse, give up, renounce.” At some point in time it came to be used not just in a legal sense, but in relation to those who have turned their back on something to which they ought to be loyal.


Don’t forget that tonight is my second Facebook Live event, at 7 p.m. eastern! I’ll be chatting about The Reluctant Duchess, answering your questions, and reading a snippet. I’ll be starting with one of last week’s questions about my favorite authors too. =) Hope to see you there, either live or afterward!

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