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Borrowed from Middle French sappeur (French sapeur). By surface analysis, sap +‎ -er.





sapper (plural sappers)

  1. A combat engineer; an engineer or a soldier engaged in attacking, destroying, and circumventing or building fortifications, bridges, and roads; a military engineer active in a combat zone.
    • 1926, T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, New York: Anchor, published 1991, page 114:
      his knowledge of Arabic and freedom from the theories of the ordinary sapper-school enabled him to teach the art of demolition to unlettered Beduin in a quick and ready way.
    • 2023 September 2, Emma Graham-Harrison, “‘Everything is ahead of us’: Ukraine breaks Russian stronghold’s first line of defence”, in The Observer[1], →ISSN:
      A vast minefield trapped Ukrainian troops for weeks as infantry sappers slowly cleared an assault route on foot.
  2. (British, colloquial) An officer or private of the Royal Engineers.
    • 1944 March and April, “The Western Desert Railway”, in Railway Magazine, page 73:
      By a remarkable piece of railway reconstruction work on the part of the Allied Forces—mainly South African railway construction troops—mines laid along the track by the retreating enemy were removed by sappers, and the German damage made good, within 7 days.
    • 2020 October 21, “Network News: GWR train naming honours D-Day veteran Harry”, in Rail, page 17:
      Billinge, from St Austell, was one of the first soldiers to land on 'Gold' beach on June 6 1944. He was a sapper attached to the 44 Royal Engineer Commandos and was one of only four to survive from his unit.


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