The lexical semantic history of
sweet and derivatives from its early stages as evidenced in Old English texts until the present day is the subject of this linguistic study. The lexemes are examined in the four semantic fields in which they occur: taste, smell, sound and, finally, metaphorical extension where they refer to feelings or senses regarded as ‘pleasant’. This pilot study of common usage of one simple adjective and its derivatives shows correlations between intralingual and extralingual language development. The extent of the emotive baggage carried by even a simple lexical unit is revealed, as well as the underlying importance of secondary semantic traits. It is an important addition to the field of linguistic variation and development in a social and cultural context, or cultural etymology.