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early 14c., from Old French sauvete "safety, safeguard; salvation; security, surety," earlier salvetet (11c., Modern French sauveté), from Medieval Latin salvitatem (nominative salvitas) "safety," from Latin salvus (see safe (adj.)). Meaning "trigger-lock on a gun" is attested from 1881.
As a North American football position, first recorded 1931. As a type of score against one's own team, 1881. Safety-valve, which diminishes the risk of explosion, is from 1797; figurative sense recorded from 1818. Safety-net in literal sense (in machinery) by 1916, later of aerial circus performances (1920s); figurative use by 1950. Safety-first as an accident-prevention slogan first recorded 1873.