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1638, from Fr. sardonique (16c.), from L. sardonius (but as if from L. *sardonicus) in Sardonius risus, loan-translation of Gk. sardonios (gelos) "of bitter or scornful (laughter)," altered from Homeric sardanios (of uncertain origin) by influence of Sardonios "Sardinian," because the Greeks believed that eating a certain plant they called sardonion (lit. "plant from Sardinia," see Sardinia) caused facial convulsions resembling those of sardonic laughter, usually followed by death. For nuances of usage, see humor.
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