NaCl, more valuable than gold…

Salt

by Betsy Carnie

Salt

Salt is a common element running through food that people everywhere prepare. It is an essential seasoning that transcends culture and place. All around the world, people are united by the use of salt to season their food.

The Latin word for salt, sal, is sprinkled through our current lexicon. The word salary is derived from it, because legend has it that Roman soldiers were originally paid for their work in salt.

People have made a close connection historically between salt and health or well-being, and also between salt and peace. The Latin word for health is salus, derived from sal. The words salubrious, meaning health-giving, and salutary, meaning beneficial, are derived from the Latin salus, health—which, in turn, is derived from sal, salt.

There are traces of this etymological connection in many Romance languages. If you have ever sat down to a meal with Italian-speakers, you may have heard the toast, clinking glasses together: “Salute!” meaning “to health!”