There are divergent hypotheses on the origin of this word. Some suggest a connection with Old Norse sveigr (“flexible, nimble”), from Proto-Indo-European *swey- (“to bend, to turn, to swing”); with an extra -ko-s, one obtains Proto-Baltic *swey-ka-s, whence sveiks, originally “flexible, agile, nimble,” later “healthy,” then “safe, unharmed.” Others link sveiks to the verb veikt (“to carry out; to accomplish”), from Proto-Indo-European *weyk- (“to bend; to weave; to turn, to swing”), whence also the adjective veikls (“nimble, deft, agile”): originally, sveiks might have come from a parallel form with an initial s-mobile, with its meaning changing from “agile” to “healthy”, “unharmed.” Others yet derive sveiks from Proto-Indo-European *su-ey-kas, from *su- (“good”) and *ey-, *h₁ey- (“to go”); the original meaning would then have been “one who goes, walks well,” whence “healthy” and then “unharmed.” Given early observations (in a 17th-century dictionary) that sveiks was used mostly near the Lithuanian border, there is the possibility that it was a Lithuanism which spread from the south toward the north. Its use as a greeting is quite recent: the first occurrences are attested in the 1870s (with the mention that vesels was more frequent in this use), and it did not become general until the 20th century. Cognates include Lithuanian sveĩkas.
- (often sveiks un vesels) safe; unharmed despite adverse circumstances
- paliec, dzīvo sveiks! — (may you) stay, live safe! (said when wishing someone well)
- visi sveiki un veseli pārnāca mājās — all returned home safe and sound
- tas taču bija Kārlēns, kuru māte apraudāja par mirušu, un piepeši dzīvs, sveiks, šinī pusē! — but that was Kārlēns, whose mother thought him dead, and suddenly (he was) alive, unharmed, on this side (= here)!
- Birkenbaums arvien cieti bija apzinājies, ka viņš sveiks izies caur dzīvi; kad kaut kur kāds bija sagriezis roku,..., tad puisis vienmēr to dzirdējis ar apziņu, ka viņu nekad nepiemeklēs šādas likstas — Birkenbaums was always perfectly aware (of the fact) that he would go through life unharmed; when somewhere someone cut his hand,..., then the young man always heard (about) it with the knowledge that he would never have such troubles
- used as a greeting or leave-taking word, expressing good wishes; hallo! greetings!; goodbye! farewell!
- sveika, māt! — hallo, mum!
- sveiks, Pakalnu tēv! — greetings, father Pakalns!
- sveiks, Jaunais gads! — hallo, New Year!
- “labdien!” nācējs viņu sveicināja; “sveiki, kaimiņ!” atsaucās Valdis — “good morning!” the person who was coming greeted him; “hallo, neighbor!” Valdis replied
- “sveiks,” viņa saka, ātri pagrūž zēnam roku atvadām — “goodbye,” she said, quickly waving her hand to the boy in a farewell (gesture)
|masculine (vīriešu dzimte)||feminine (sieviešu dzimte)|
In the contemporary language, sveiks is more frequently used as a greeting than as an adjective: sveiks! “hallo!” (to a man), sveika! (to a woman), sveikas! (to several women), sveiki! (to several men; to men and women together; to one person, male or female, indicating respect; cf. the plural pronoun jūs “you (pl.)” used to indicate respect, like French vous, German Sie or Russian вы (vy)).