Sauve-qui-peut!

One of the things that came up in conversation last night was how to say ‘to save’ in French. As is often the case, there are a number of different translations of this word, depending on the context:

sauver = to save (person, animal, jewels, building etc), rescue, salvage
– sauver la vie â/de qcn = to save sb’s life
– sauver sa peau = to save one’s skin, neck, hide
– sauver son âme = to save one’s soul
– sauver les apparences = to keep up appearances
– sauver la face = to save face
– sauve-qui-peut = stampede / every man for himself / run for your life

There is also a reflexive version of this verb, se sauver, which means to run away, to be off. For example, Il s’est sauvé à toutes jambes (He ran away as fast as he could); Allez, je me sauve! (Right, I’m off! / I’m out of here!).

When you want to talk about saving money, time or energy the word to use économiser. For example, vous économisez un euro si vous achetez 3 pacquets (You save a euro if you buy 3 packets). If you’re talking about putting money, food or other things aside for a rainy day though, the expression to use is mettre de côté or garder. For example, il garde les vieux journaux pour les bonnes œuvres (he’s saving (up) old newspapers for charity).

The French equivalents for ‘to save a goal’ are empêcher de marquer, faire un blocage or sauver un but.

The word sauver comes from the Old French salver/sauver, from the late Latin salvāre (to save), from the Latin salvus (safe, secure, immune from punishment, intact, undamaged), from the Proto-Indo-European base *sol- (whole). The English words save, safe, salvage, salver, saviour and salvation come from the same roots.

Sources: Reverso, OED, Online Etymology Dictionary, and Collins Robert French Dictionary.

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This entry was posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European.

3 Responses to Sauve-qui-peut!

  1. lukas says:

    For saving a file on your computer, use sauvegarder. For putting money into your savings account, épargner.

  2. Kevin says:

    >> There is also a reflexive version of this verb, se sauver, which means to run away, to be off. For example, Il s’est sauvé à toutes jambes (He ran away as fast as he could) <<

    I love the Welsh way of saying this:

    rhedodd nerth ei draed
    He ran (at) the strength of his feet

  3. Julian says:

    Sauve-qui-peut (additional usage by Terran Federation Mobile Infantry in Robert Anson Heinlein’s famous novel “Starship Troopers”):

    1. An emergency evacuation while still under fire, from combat on a planet back to a troopship in orbit, with the understanding that anyone unable to lift within a very short time must be left behind to die.
    2. A voice transmission of such an order.
    3. An instance of having to obey such an order.