Word Origin & History
1272, from O.Fr. saphir (12c.), from L. sapphirus (cf. Sp. zafir, It. zaffiro), from Gk. sappheiros "blue stone" (the gem meant apparently was not the one that now has the name, but perhaps rather "lapis lazuli," the modern sapphire perhaps signified by Gk. hyakinthos), from a Semitic source (cf. Heb.
sappir "sapphire"), but probably not ult. from Semitic; some linguists propose an origin in Skt. sanipriya, a dark precious stone (perhaps sapphire or emerald), lit. "sacred to Saturn," from Sani "Saturn" + priyah "precious." In Renaissance lapidaries, it was said to cure anger and stupidity.