a. A dish of raw leafy green vegetables, often tossed with pieces of other raw or cooked vegetables, fruit, cheese, or other ingredients and served with a dressing.
b. The course of a meal consisting of this dish.
2. A cold dish of chopped vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, eggs, or other food, usually prepared with a dressing, such as mayonnaise.
3. A green vegetable or herb used in salad, especially lettuce.
4. A varied mixture: "The Declaration of Independence was ... a salad of illusions" (George Santayana).
[Middle English salade, from Old French, possibly from Old Provençal salada, from Vulgar Latin *salāta, from feminine past participle of *salāre, to salt, from Latin sāl, salt; see sal- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Word History: Salt was and is such an important ingredient in salad dressings that the very word salad is based on the Latin word for "salt." Vulgar Latin had a verb *salāre, "to salt," from Latin sāl, "salt," and the past participle form of this verb, *salāta, "having been salted," came to mean "salad." The Vulgar Latin word passed into languages descending from it, such as Portuguese (salada) and Old Provençal (salada). Old French may have borrowed its word salade from Old Provençal. Medieval Latin also carried on the Vulgar Latin word in the form salāta. As in the case of so many culinary delights, the English borrowed the word and probably the dish from the French. The Middle English word salade, from Old French salade and Medieval Latin salāta, is first recorded in a cookbook composed before 1399. · Salt is of course an important ingredient of other foods and condiments besides salad dressings, as is evidenced by some other culinary word histories. The words sauce and salsa, borrowed into English from French and Spanish, respectively, both come ultimately from the Latin word salsus, meaning "salted." Another derivative of this word was the Late Latin adjective salsīcius, "prepared by salting," which eventually gave us the word sausage.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.