• noun Japanese rice wine, usually drunk warm

Origin & History of “sake”

English has two nouns sake. The older, now used only in the expression for the sake of, was originally an independent fully-fledged noun, with a range of meanings including ‘strife’, ‘guilt’, and ‘lawsuit’ (OE). Its use in for the sake of, which emerged in the 13th century, probably arose out of its legal usage, and thus denoted originally ‘on behalf of a litigant’s case in a lawsuit’. The word itself came from a prehistoric Germanic *sakō ‘affair, thing, charge, accusation’, which also produced German sache ‘affair, subject, lawsuit’. It is also represented in English forsake (OE), which etymologically means ‘accuse, quarrel with’, hence ‘decline’, and finally ‘give up’; keepsake (18th c.), etymologically something that is kept for the ‘sake’ of the giver; and namesake (17th c.), which probably arose from the notion of two people being linked or associated for the ‘sake’ of their names. Seek is a distant relation.

Sake, or saki, ‘rice wine’ (17th c.) was borrowed from Japanese, where it literally means ‘alcohol’.