Salaries… Are They Worth Their Weight in Salt?

Welcome to the first ever installment of Bill’s Bologna! I’ll save you an intro. Let’s get right to it.

If English is your first language & you don’t know that your income is also called your salary, you’re an idiot. I kid, but really, you should know the word for the stuff you get paid. That being said, you’re not an idiot if you don’t know where that word comes from.

I’m here to fix that.

Different words describing salt & words for things containing salt have the root word, “sal” (as in saline). That comes from the Latin word for salt, which is salis.

See, in Ancient Rome & into the Middle Ages, salt was a very valuable mineral. Remember, there was no such thing as refrigeration, so salt was used to dry meats & preserve them. A lot more was used back then, so it was always in high demand.

Back then, it took a whole lot more work to go from this:


To this:


It took so much labor & was so expensive, that the nobility were the only people who could afford it in large amounts. Less wealthy people, mainly the soldiers, were either paid in salt or money that was worth the same as the amount of salt given out. Workers & soldiers who stood out were considered to be, “worth their weight in salt.” Not gold or silver. Salt. It was that damn valuable.

If you were paid in actual money, your wages would have been called a, “salarium,” which is a contraction of two Latin words meaning, “salt money.” At some point wages were standardized by paying cash instead of handfuls of salt, & the name stuck. Eventually, it made its way to English as the word salary.

Now you know. You’re welcome. Go buy a ton of salt.


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Filed under Etymology

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