Salt & Salary

Would you like to be paid your salary in salt? Probably not.

But it was a common practice for Roman legionnaires. In those days, salt (regular, ordinary table salt) was a prized and valuable commodity over which wars were fought, rather than taken for granted as it is today. Phrases such as “you are the salt of the earth” or “worth your salt” both refer to the high value of salt.

So the word ‘salary’ goes back to the Latin word ‘Salarium’ (‘allowance given to a Roman soldier for buying salt’ ) a derivative of ‘sal’ or, in English, ‘salt.’  Its meaning soon broadened to   ‘fixed periodic payment for work done,’ and passed in this sense via Anglo-Norman ‘salarie’ into English.

Read more about the history of salt and the origins of word ‘salary’


About TermCoord

The Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Schuman Building on Place de l'Europe, Luxembourg
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