verb (used with object), sapped, sap·ping.

to drain the sap from.

Origin of sap

before 900; Middle English; Old English sæp; cognate with Dutch sap; akin to German Saft juice, Old Norse safi; in def. 5 a shortening of saphead




Fortification. a deep, narrow trench constructed so as to form an approach to a besieged place or an enemy's position.

verb (used with object), sapped, sap·ping.

  1. to approach (a besieged place or an enemy position) by means of deep, narrow trenches protected by gabions or parapets.
  2. to dig such trenches in (ground).
to undermine; weaken or destroy insidiously.

verb (used without object), sapped, sap·ping.

Fortification. to dig a sap.

Origin of sap

1585–95; < French sape (noun), derivative of saper to dig a trench < Italian zappare, a military term, based on zappa hoe (compare dialectal Italian zappo he-goat < ?)

Synonyms for sap Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sap

Contemporary Examples of sap

Historical Examples of sap

  • Methinks, Alleyne, it is this learning which you have taught her that has taken all the life and sap from her.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • I think he was glad when we set out for my own village in the Moon of the Sap Running.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • Each century had renewed the city's glory as with the sap of immortal youth.

  • Women have yet this lesson to learn: the capacity for sense-experience is the sap of life.

    The Truth About Woman

    C. Gasquoine Hartley

  • But commonly, graft at that time of the Winter, when sap beginneth to arise.

British Dictionary definitions for sap




a solution of mineral salts, sugars, etc, that circulates in a plant
any vital body fluid
energy; vigour
slang a gullible or foolish person
another name for sapwood

verb saps, sapping or sapped (tr)

to drain of sap
Derived Formssapless, adjective

Word Origin for sap

Old English sæp; related to Old High German sapf, German Saft juice, Middle Low German sapp, Sanskrit sabar milk juice




a deep and narrow trench used to approach or undermine an enemy position, esp in siege warfare

verb saps, sapping or sapped

to undermine (a fortification, etc) by digging saps
(tr) to weaken

Word Origin for sap

C16 zappe, from Italian zappa spade, of uncertain origin; perhaps from Old Italian (dialect) zappo a goat



abbreviation for

South African Police



n acronym for (in Britain)

Standard Assessment Procedure, the recognized performance indicator for measuring energy efficiency in buildings
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for sap

"liquid in a plant," Old English sæpm from Proto-Germanic *sapam (cf. Middle Low German, Middle Dutch, Dutch sap, Old High German saf, German Saft "juice"), from PIE *sab- "juice, fluid" (cf. Latin sapere "to taste"), from root *sab- "juice, fluid" (cf. Sanskrit sabar- "sap, milk, nectar," Irish sug, Russian soku "sap," Lithuanian sakas "tree-gum"). As a verb meaning "To drain the sap from," 1725.


"simpleton," 1815, originally especially in Scottish and English schoolboy slang, probably from earlier sapskull (1735), saphead (1798), from sap as a shortened form of sapwood "soft wood between the inner bark and the heartwood" (late 14c.), from sap (n.1) + wood (n.); so called because it conducts the sap; cf. sappy.


"dig a trench toward the enemy's position," 1590s, from Middle French saper, from sappe "spade," from Late Latin sappa "spade" (cf. Italian zappa, Spanish zapa "spade"). Extended sense "weaken or destroy insidiously" is from 1755, probably influenced by the verb form of sap (n.1), on the notion of "draining the vital sap from." Related: Sapped; sapping.


"club, stick for hitting," 1899, from shortening of sapwood (see sap (n.2)) or sapling.


"hit with a sap," 1926, from sap (n.3). Related: Sapped; sapping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sap in Science



The watery fluid that circulates through a plant that has vascular tissues. Sap moving up the xylem carries water and minerals, while sap moving down the phloem carries water and food.
See cell sap.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.