Word Origin & History
1630s, from Fr. sardonique (16c.), from L. sardonius (but as if from L. *sardonicus) in Sardonius risus, loan-translation of Gk. sardonios (gelos) "of bitter or scornful (laughter)," altered from Homeric sardanios (of uncertain origin) by influence of Sardonios "Sardinian," because the Greeks believed
that eating a certain plant they called sardonion (lit. "plant from Sardinia," see Sardinia
) caused facial convulsions resembling those of sardonic laughter, usually followed by death. For nuances of usage, see humor
. Related: Sardonically.