Where does salty come from?
The term salty has a long history of slang meanings, probably because of its association with salt-water sailors. In the 1860s, salty was a synonym for “racy” or “vulgar,” a likely connection to sailors. By the 1920s–30s, salty had made its way into African-American Vernacular English as jump salty, meaning to become suddenly angry. The phrase jump salty stuck around well into the 1960s.
In the 2000s, salty continues to mean “bitter” and “upset,” especially when used in a taunting tone. The American Dialect society voted it the word “most likely to succeed” in 2014.
Today, one of the most common phrases containing this slang meaning of salty is salty bitch, a compound phrase dating back to at least 1793. Green’s Dictionary of Slang notes that a salty bitch is an English dialectical phrase for a female dog in heat, which may have influenced the slang term. Today’s salty bitch is a vulgar colloquialism for a “bitter woman.” Salty as hell is another common intensified form.
Who uses salty?
People who use the slang version of salty often use it to refer to someone who is bitter or badly reacting to something that made them upset.
This slang sense of salty, especially when used in the phrase salty bitch, is so commonplace today that it is often featured in popular memes. One common image combines an image of the Morton Salt Company umbrella girl with the caption “Don’t be a salty bitch.” This image can be found on shirts, mugs, and other household items.
Salty is also often used in the video-game world to deride players who are losing a game, especially if they lose their temper in the process.
Not all Vikings fans are salty. My very kind waitress tonight said she’s rooting for the Eagles to beat the Pats.
@BrandonGowton, February, 2018
So today I started making jokes about Jesus and minutes later my car broke. Lesson learned? God is one salty bitch.
@ImTrash_butUr2, January, 2018
After serving as the essential ally in the Stark family’s coup of Winterfell, Littlefinger had to sit and sulk all salty as Jon Snow was declared the King of the North.
Nick Harley, Den of Geek!, June, 2016