Word Origin & History
O.E. sealf "healing ointment," from W.Gmc. *salbo- "oily substance" (cf. O.S. salba, M.Du. salve, Du. zalf, O.H.G. salba, Ger. salbe "ointment"), from PIE *solpa-, from base *selp- "fat, butter" (cf. Gk. elpos "fat, oil," Skt. sarpis "melted butter"). The figurative sense of "something to soothe wounded
pride, etc." is from 1736. The verb is O.E. sealfian "anoint (a wound) with salve," from P.Gmc. *salbojanan (cf. Du. zalven, Ger. salben, Goth. salbon "to anoint").