Unknown. Sometimes hypothesized to mean originally "coming from or belonging to the sea," with the sea being the supposed stopping place of the soul before birth or after death. In that case, the word would be derived from Proto-Germanic *saiwiz.
- Old English: sāwol, sawel, sawal, saul, sowhul
- Old Frisian: sēla
- Old Saxon: sēola
- Old High German: sēla
- Gothic: 𐍃𐌰𐌹𐍅𐌰𐌻𐌰 (saiwala)