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Etymology unclear. Attested in the sense “to stroll” from the 1660s; noun sense “a stroll” attested 1828.[1] Likely from earlier term meaning “to muse”, late 15th century, from late Middle English santren, of unknown origin.[1] Competing theories exist:

Various fanciful folk etymologies have also been given.[6][7]



saunter (third-person singular simple present saunters, present participle sauntering, simple past and past participle sauntered)

  1. To stroll, or walk at a leisurely pace.
    Synonyms: amble, stroll, wander
    • 1858-1880, David Masson, The Life Of John Milton: 1649-1654
      One could lie under elm trees in a lawn, or saunter in meadows by the side of a stream.
    • 1919, Henry B[lake] Fuller, “Cope at His House Party”, in Bertram Cope’s Year: A Novel, Chicago, Ill.: Ralph Fletcher Seymour, The Alderbrink Press, →OCLC, page 94:
      Meanwhile the young ladies sauntered along—before or behind, as the case might be—in the company of the young business-man and that of another youth who had come out independently on the trolley.
    • 1986 November 24, Susan Sontag, “The Way We Live Now”, in The New Yorker[2]:
      And, after all, they were once very close, doesn’t Lewis still have the keys to his apartment, you know the way you let someone keep the keys after you’ve broken up, only a little because you hope the person might just saunter in, drunk or high, late some evening, []



saunter (plural saunters)

  1. A leisurely walk or stroll.
    • 1814, Elizabeth Hervey, Amabel, volume 1, page 53:
      Caroline [] begged that the drive might be given up for a saunter about the gardens []
  2. A leisurely pace.
  3. (obsolete) A place for sauntering or strolling.
    • 1725–1728, [Edward Young], “(please specify the page)”, in Love of Fame, the Universal Passion. In Seven Characteristical Satires, 4th edition, London: [] J[acob] and R[ichard] Tonson [], published 1741, →OCLC:
      That wheel of fops, that saunter of the town.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “saunter”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ Proposed by Blackley (Word Gossip, 1869); see 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
  4. ^ Wedgwood; see 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
  5. ^ William Bennett (1992) “Some English Relations of the French Low Nasal”, in La Linguistique[1], volume 28, number 2, Presses Universitaires de France, page 147
  6. ^ Saunter., Languagehat, July 24, 2004
  7. ^ In Walking, Henry David Thoreau derives it from Sainte Terre (holy land) or sans terre (without land); these are dismissed as far-fetched.