The word salary derives from the Middle English word salarie from the Latin salarium which is related to the Latin word salarius meaning salt. This comes to English by way of France (the Norman Conquest brought many words related to economics, cooking, and law into English) salaire. The phrase 'worth its salt' is related to this phrase which is quite similar to 'worth its weight in gold'.

In ancient times, a person was literally worth their salt. This dates back to Roman times with building roads and fighting wars. Such a workout would reduce the body reserves of salt (today we see sports drinks such as Gatorade that replenish the sodium and potassium (electrolytes) that are lost through sweat). To survive, these soldiers needed to buy salt - the wages were paid for the purpose of buying salt. In some cases the salarium was paid in salt itself.

The salarium was paid on a regular basis. As the need for salt was reduced (technology made getting salt easier) the name became less associated with the purchase of salt and instead was a monetary payment that person received periodically for work done.

Salt was used as a currency in Ethiopia as recently as 1935. Within Ethiopia, the phrase "he eats salt" is said of a person who spends too much money. Salt was preferable as a currency to gold and silver. Two bars of salt were worth about 16 kilograms of wheat.


http://www.salt.org.il/intro.html
http://www.geocities.com/athens/2707/etymol.html
http://www.m-w.com/
http://faculty.whatcom.ctc.edu/lthomp/personal/wordfor.htm
http://www.bootlegbooks.com/Reference/PhraseAndFable/data/1095.html
http://28.1911encyclopedia.org/A/AB/ABYSSINIA.htm
http://www.nbe.gov.et/hostedwebs/englished/History/history_notesandcoins.htm

Sal"a*ry (?), a. [L. salarius.]

Saline

[Obs.]

 

© Webster 1913.


Sal"a*ry (?), n.; pl. Salaries (#). [F. salarie, L. salarium, originally, salt money, the money given to the Roman soldiers for salt, which was a part of thir pay, fr. salarius belonging to salt, fr. sal salt. See Salt.]

The recompense or consideration paid, or stipulated to be paid, to a person at regular intervals for services; fixed wages, as by the year, quarter, or month; stipend; hire.

This is hire and salary, not revenge. Shak.

⇒ Recompense for services paid at, or reckoned by, short intervals, as a day or week, is usually called wages.

Syn. -- Stipend; pay; wages; hire; allowance.

 

© Webster 1913.


Sal"a*ry v. t. [imp. & p. p. Salaried (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Salarying (?).]

To pay, or agree to pay, a salary to; to attach salary to; as, to salary a clerk; to salary a position.

 

© Webster 1913.

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