rub salt in/into someone's wounds, to make someone's bad situation even worse.
    with a grain/pinch of salt, with reserve or allowance; with an attitude of skepticism: Diplomats took the reports of an impending crisis with a grain of salt.
    worth one's salt, deserving of one's wages or salary: We couldn't find an assistant worth her salt.

Origin of salt

before 900; (noun and adj.) Middle English; Old English sealt; cognate with German Salz, Old Norse, Gothic salt; akin to Latin sāl, Greek háls (see halo-); (v.) Middle English salten, Old English s(e)altan; compare Old High German salzan, Old Norse salta, Dutch zouten; see salary
Related formssalt·like, adjective

Synonyms for salt

5. flavor, savor. 8. See sailor.



noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for salts

Contemporary Examples of salts

Historical Examples of salts

British Dictionary definitions for salts


pl n

med any of various mineral salts, such as magnesium sulphate or sodium sulphate, for use as a cathartic
short for smelling salts
like a dose of salts informal very fast


n acronym for

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks or Treaty



a white powder or colourless crystalline solid, consisting mainly of sodium chloride and used for seasoning and preserving food
(modifier) preserved in, flooded with, containing, or growing in salt or salty watersalt pork; salt marshes
chem any of a class of usually crystalline solid compounds that are formed from, or can be regarded as formed from, an acid and a base by replacement of one or more hydrogen atoms in the acid molecules by positive ions from the base
liveliness or pungencyhis wit added salt to the discussion
dry or laconic wit
a sailor, esp one who is old and experienced
short for saltcellar
rub salt into someone's wounds to make someone's pain, shame, etc, even worse
salt of the earth a person or group of people regarded as the finest of their kind
with a grain of salt or with a pinch of salt with reservations; sceptically
worth one's salt efficient; worthy of one's pay

verb (tr)

to season or preserve with salt
to scatter salt over (an icy road, path, etc) to melt the ice
to add zest to
(often foll by down or away) to preserve or cure with salt or saline solution
chem to treat with common salt or other chemical salt
to provide (cattle, etc) with salt
to give a false appearance of value to, esp to introduce valuable ore fraudulently into (a mine, sample, etc)


not sour, sweet, or bitter; salty
obsolete rank or lascivious (esp in the phrase a salt wit)
Derived Formssaltish, adjectivesaltless, adjectivesaltlike, adjectivesaltness, noun

Word Origin for salt

Old English sealt; related to Old Norse, Gothic salt, German Salz, Lettish sāls, Latin sāl, Greek hals
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for salts



Old English sealt "salt" (n.; also as an adjective, "salty, briny"), from Proto-Germanic *saltom (cf. Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Gothic salt, Dutch zout, German Salz), from PIE *sal- "salt" (cf. Greek hals "salt, sea," Latin sal, Old Church Slavonic soli, Old Irish salann, Welsh halen "salt").

Modern chemistry sense is from 1790. Meaning "experienced sailor" is first attested 1840, in reference to the salinity of the sea. Salt was long regarded as having power to repel spiritual and magical evil. Many metaphoric uses reflect that this was once a rare and important resource, e.g. worth one's salt (1830), salt of the earth (Old English, after Matt. v:13). Belief that spilling salt brings bad luck is attested from 16c. To be above (or below) the salt (1590s) refers to customs of seating at a long table according to rank or honor, and placing a large salt-cellar in the middle of the dining table.

Salt-lick first recorded 1751; salt-marsh is Old English sealtne mersc; salt-shaker is from 1882. Salt-and-pepper "of dark and light color" first recorded 1915. To take something with a grain of salt is from 1640s, from Modern Latin cum grano salis.



Cold War U.S.-U.S.S.R. nuclear weapons negotiations, 1968, acronym for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (which would make SALT talks redundant, but the last element sometimes also is understood as treaty).



Old English sealtan, from Proto-Germanic *salto- (see salt (n.)), and in part from the noun. Related: Salted; salting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for salts




A colorless or white crystalline solid, chiefly sodium chloride, used extensively as a food seasoning and preservative.
A chemical compound replacing all or part of the hydrogen ions of an acid with metal ions or electropositive radicals.
salts Any of various mineral salts, such as magnesium sulfate, sodium sulfate, or potassium sodium tartrate, used as laxatives or cathartics.
salts Smelling salts.
salts Epsom salts.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for salts



Any of a large class of chemical compounds formed when a positively charged ion (a cation) bonds with a negatively charged ion (an anion), as when a halogen bonds with a metal. Salts are water soluble; when dissolved, the ions are freed from each other, and the electrical conductivity of the water is increased. See more at complex salt double salt simple salt.
A colorless or white crystalline salt in which a sodium atom (the cation) is bonded to a chlorine atom (the anion). This salt is found naturally in all animal fluids, in seawater, and in underground deposits (when it is often called halite). It is used widely as a food seasoning and preservative. Also called common salt, sodium chloride, table salt. Chemical formula: NaCl.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for salts


In chemistry, a compound resulting from the combination of an acid and a base, which neutralize each other.


Common table salt is sodium chloride.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with salts


In addition to the idioms beginning with salt

  • salt away
  • salt of the earth, the

also see:

  • back to the salt mines
  • with a grain of salt
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.