The word satire comes from the Latin word satur and the subsequent phrase lanx satura. Satur meant “full” but the juxtaposition with lanx shifted the meaning to “miscellany or medley”: the expression lanx satura literally means “a full dish of various kinds of fruits”,
The word satura as used by Quintilian, however, was used to denote only Roman verse satire, a strict genre that imposed hexameter form, a narrower genre than what would be later intended as satire.Quintilian famously said that satura, that is a satire in hexameter verses, was a literary genre of wholly Roman origin (satura tota nostra est). He was aware of and commented on Greek satire, but at the time did not label it as such, although today the origin of satire is considered to be Aristophanes’ Old Comedy. The first critic to use the term “satire” in the modern broader sense was Apuleius.
To Quintilian, the satire was a strict literary form, but the term soon escaped from the original narrow definition. Robert Elliott writes:
As soon as a noun enters the domain of metaphor, as one modern scholar has pointed out, it clamours for extension; and satura (which had had no verbal, adverbial, or adjectival forms) was immediately broadened by appropriation from the Greek word for “satyr” (satyros) and its derivatives. The odd result is that the English “satire” comes from the Latin satura; but “satirize”, “satiric”, etc., are of Greek origin. By about the 4th century AD the writer of satires came to be known as satyricus; St. Jerome, for example, was called by one of his enemies ‘a satirist in prose’ (‘satyricus scriptor in prosa’). Subsequent orthographic modifications obscured the Latin origin of the word satire: satura becomes satyra, and in England, by the 16th century, it was written ‘satyre.’
The word satire derives from satura, and its origin was not influenced by the Greek mythological figure of the satyr. In the 17th century, philologist Isaac Casaubon was the first to dispute the etymology of satire from satyr, contrary to the belief up to that time.
Laughter is not an essential component of satire; in fact there are types of satire that are not meant to be “funny” at all. Conversely, not all humour, even on such topics as politics, religion or art is necessarily “satirical”, even when it uses the satirical tools of irony, parody, and burlesque.
Even light-hearted satire has a serious “after-taste”: the organizers of the Ig Nobel Prize describe this as “first make people laugh, and then make them think”.