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Originally the (adjectival) past passive participle of an old verb *sviest (to smear, to spread) (cf. Lithuanian svíesti); the original meaning of sviests was thus “(something) smeared (on something else), (something) used for smearing”; cf. Russian ма́сло (máslo, butter, oil) and ма́зать (mázatʹ, to smear, spread (oil)), or Latin unguen (fat, grease) and unguō (to smear, to anoint). The verb *sviest would in turn come from *sviesti, from Proto-Baltic *swied-ti, from Proto-Indo-European *sweyd- (to shine) (whence also Latvian svīst (to sweat; to steam; to dawn) q.v.); its original meaning would have been “to make something shine” > “to smear with oil, so that it shines” > “to smear” (cf. its descendant svaidīt (to anoint), originally the iterative form of *sviest). Cognates include Lithuanian svíestas.[1].

Alternatively, Pokorny (Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, p. 1043) considers this word and Lithuanian svíesti from Proto-Indo-European *kswéyd- (milk) (cf. Middle Indo-Aryan kṣvira, Avestan xšvīd).


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sviests m (1st declension)

  1. butter (a dairy product, obtained from cream, with a high fat concentration)
    krējuma sviestscream butter
    skābkrējuma sviestssour cream butter
    sūkalu sviestswhey butter
    svaigs sviestsfresh butter
    nesalīts sviestsunsalted butter
    kausēts sviestsmelted butter
    sviesta trauksbutter bowl
    sautēt saknes sviestāto sautee roots in butter
    sviesta rūpniecībabutter industry
    kult sviestuto churn butter
    gaiteņa pustumsā viņai skrēja pretī sviestā ceptu pankūku smaržain the darkness of the corridor the smell of pancakes fried in butter came (lit. ran) to her
  2. (in the genitive, used adjectivally) butter; containing butter, made with butter
    sviesta cepumibutter cookies
    sviesta mīklu gatavo no sviesta, cukura, kviešu miltiem, nedaudz pievienojot olasbutter dough is made from butter, sugar, (and) wheat flour, adding a little egg (= one or two eggs)
  3. butter, spread (any food paste generally used as spread)
  4. (slang) nonsense; something that is bizarre
  5. (slang) something that has poor quality, is not successful
    saiet sviestāto deteriorate; to fail (lit. to go into butter)


Derived terms[edit]


sviests (definite sviestais)

  1. thrown, flung, slung; indefinite past passive participle of sviest



  1. ^ Karulis, Konstantīns (1992), “sviests”, in Latviešu Etimoloģijas Vārdnīca (in Latvian), Rīga: AVOTS, →ISBN