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[14arg] The meaning and origin of the particle saltem.

WE were inquiring what the original meaning of the particle saltem (at least) was, and what was the derivation of the word; for it seems to have been so formed from the first that it does not appear, like some aids to expression, to have been adopted inconsiderately and irregularly. And there was one man who said that he had read in the Grammatical Notes of Publius Nigidius 1 that saltem was derived from si aliter, and that this itself was an elliptical expression, since the complete sentence was si aliter non potest, “if otherwise, it cannot be.” But I myself have nowhere come upon that statement in those Notes of Publius Nigidius, although I have read them, I think, with some care.

However, that phrase si aliter non potest does not seem at variance with the meaning of the word under discussion. But yet to condense so many words into a very few letters shows a kind of misplaced subtlety. There was also another man, devoted to books and letters, who said that saltem seemed to him to be formed by the syncope of a medial u, saying that what we call saltem was originally salute. “For when some other things have been requested and refused, then,” said he, “we are accustomed, as if about to make a final request which ought by no means to be denied, to say ' this at least (saltem) ought to be done or given,' as if at last seeking safety salutem, which it is surely most just to grant and to obtain.” But this also, [p. 411] though ingeniously contrived, seems too far-fetched. I thought therefore that further investigation was necessary. 2

1 p. 19, 66, Swoboda.

2 Saltem or saltim is the accusative of a noun (cf. partim, etc.) derived by some from the root of sal-vus and sal-us; by others from that of sal-io; Walde, Lat. Etym. Wörterb. s.v. accepts Warren's derivation from si alitem (formed from item), meaning “if otherwise.”

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