• sally •Pronunciation: sæ-lee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive
Meaning: 1. Make a sortie, leap forth suddenly. 2. To set forth confidently on a short, brief trip, proceed with confidence.
Notes: If you capitalize this word, it becomes a former nickname for Sarah, now a feminine name on its own. However, uncapitalized it is a verb meaning "dart forth". It also serves as a noun without any suffix as in, 'a sally to the market to fetch fresh vegetables'.
In Play: Today's Good Word, when used as a verb, is often accompanied by forth: "As soon as the bug lighted on the leaf, a robin sallied forth and grabbed it." However, it is not required: "Ray Scane sallied bravely out of the first debacle and on to new deeds of shame." Let's not leave the figurative uses behind: "Myna Byrd couldn't believe that such a word had sallied from her lips."
Word History: The English verb sally came from the Old French noun saillie "a sally", the feminine past participle of saillir "to rush forward" used as a noun. French inherited this verb from Latin salire "to jump, leap". Apparently the Proto-Indo-European language contained a word with a root sel- "to jump", for it also turned up in Greek as hallesthai "to leap, jump". We find it in the English borrowed vocabulary as salacious and salient ("jumps out at you"). Somersault also contains the remnants of this word. It comes from Old French sombresault, comprising sombre "over" (from Latin super) + sault "leap". (Time to sally forth now and thank Lew Jury for bringing this lacuna in our Good Word series to our attention.)