Saturday, November 13, 2010

Salvable or Salvageable?


Don Ranville from Cedar asked if the word salvable is on equal footing with, or perhaps even preferable to, salvageable. Both involve rescuing and recycling, and each can be used to define the other. It turns out that while there is equivalency, salvageable is more popular today. A Google search yields 85,800 hits for salvable, and 1,600,000 hits for salvageable.

Salvable started out as a 17th century theological term. It meant “admitting of salvation.” By the late 18th century, it had become secularized. It referred to a ship or a ship’s cargo that could be salvaged. The last time that it was in predominant use was at the very beginning of the 20th century.

Salvageable is a late arrival. The first written citation in The Oxford English Dictionary is from 1976. Ultimately, it tracks back to the Latin salvare, to save. In fact, so does salvable, so they are simply different forms of the same word.

Another related word coming from the same Latin verb is savable/saveable. A word that shows up in 1450, it at first shared the theological sense of “conducive to salvation.” Other words derive from salvare. They include

  • insalvabilty: incapability of being saved
  • salvage: the saving of property
  • salvatella: obsolete name for a vein on the back of the hand
  • salvation: the act of saving
  • salvative: healing
  • salvator: one who saves
  • salvatory: a place of preservation
  • salvatrice: a female savior
  • savior: one who rescues from peril.


Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition


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