1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sarcasm

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SARCASM, an ironical or sneering remark or taunt, a biting or satirical expression. The word comes through the Latin from the Greek σαρκάζειν, literally to tear flesh (σάρξ) like a dog; hence, figuratively, to bite the lips in rage, to speak bitterly (cf. Stobaeus, Eclog. ii. 222). The etymology of this may be paralleled by the English “sneer,” from Dan. snarre, to grin like a dog, cognate with “snarl,” to make a rattling r sound in the throat, Ger. schnarren, and possibly also by “sardonic.” This latter word appears in Greek in the form σαρδάνιος, always in the sense of bitter or scornful laughter, in such phrases as σαρδάνιον γελᾶν, γέλως σαρδάνιος and the like. It is probably connected with σαίρειν, to draw back, i.e. the lips, like a dog, but was usually explained (by the early scholiasts and commentators) as referring to a Sardinian plant (Ranunculus Sardous), whose bitter taste screwed up the mouth. Thus, later Greek writers wrote Σαρδόνιον, and it was adopted into Latin; cf. Servius on Virg. Ecl. vii. 41 “immo ego Sardois videar tibi amarior herbis.”