Due to their sky-blue hue, sapphires have always been associated with the heavens, which is why ancient Indians named it sanipriya, meaning "sacred to Saturn" (a particularly karmic planet), from the Sanskrit words Sani, meaning "Saturn", and priyah, meaning "precious". Usage of this word traveled into the Middle East as the Hebrew word sappir, which also referred to lapis lazuli. That went into Ancient Greek as sappheiros (probably not related to the poet Sappho), which was still associated with both gems, and that in turn was picked up by the Romans as the Latin word sapphirus. That diffused into Old French as sapphir and was borrowed into English in the mid-1200s. The adjectival form arose in the 1400s and peak usage was in the late 1800s as sapphires boomed in popularity due to new imports from Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Madagascar.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd