The Etymology of Weak Sauce

Posted on December 13, 2008 / Thoughts

While having a conversation with a friend the other day, I referred to something as "weak sauce"--as I typically do--and she asked that I define "weak sauce" and not only that but also provide a proper etymology of the word. So I did. And now I would like to share this info with you. Enjoy.


"yo, this hot sauce isn't hot, it's weak sauce!"

"this phone sucks, it's weak sauce!"

"my computer barely works, weak sauce!"

"you're girlfriend is a terrible girlfriend, she's weak sauce!"

"this weed doesn't get me high, it's weak sauce!"


To really understand "weak sauce" we must first understand "areté", a greek word meaning "something closer to 'being the best you can be,' or 'reaching your highest human potential.'" Thus, a knife of areté is one that cuts the best, a horse of areté is one that runs the best a person of areté is one that is most excellent (obviously none of us). So basically, areté is something that excels within it's own particular purpose, it is excellent at what it does. "weak sauce", on the other hand, is the exact opposite; it is something that "fails at achieving it's purpose, or is terrible at doing what it is intended to do." Thus, it is "weak sauce".


[ etymology noun - the history of a linguistic form (as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language ]

"Weak sauce" was first used by the Chinese in the 5th Century b.c.e., but the original usage of the term "weak" preceeded by over 200 years. "weeke" was the original term used by the Roman's in the 7th century b.c.e. The Chinese term for "weak" was "wekdu", meaning "weak or that without power." They also had a "suki" meaning "sauce", which they usually used in reference to any kind of culinary spicies, or mixtures that were concocted and used with food.

Now, in China, during festivals, which included the entire empire, the Emporer would host a dinner for some of the most esteemed guest of the Empire and he would collect the best chefs in the region and have the create the most elaborate and tasteful dishes for his guests. The servants and chefs would create dishes and present them to the King's right hand sauce man, known as the "suki mang". He would taste all the dishes and rate them using his "suki ratie" which was a rating chart he created. This system would test the flavor, spiciness and sauciness of the dishes. If the dish was spicy enough and delicious enough they were considered good. If not, they deemed it "wekdu suki", meaning "weak sauce." Thus, the overall sauce of the dish did not excel at it's purpose, it was intended to be a good spicy sauce, yet it failed and thus termed, "wedku suki" or "weak sauce"

The good dishes on the other hand were referred to as another term, a word that is not present in any other language. It is a chinese character that resembles the following image. The word in chinese is more of a sound, the sound a ninja makes while creeping up behind you. Thus, the only english translation is "ninja style" or "chuck norris style."