from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A colorless or white crystalline solid, chiefly sodium chloride, used extensively in ground or granulated form as a food seasoning and preservative.
  • noun An ionic chemical compound formed by replacing all or part of the hydrogen ions of an acid with metal ions or other cations.
  • noun Any of various mineral salts used as laxatives or cathartics.
  • noun Smelling salts.
  • noun Epsom salts.
  • noun An element that gives flavor or zest.
  • noun Sharp lively wit.
  • noun Informal A sailor, especially when old or experienced.
  • noun A saltcellar.
  • adjective Containing or filled with salt.
  • adjective Having a salty taste or smell.
  • adjective Preserved in salt or a salt solution.
  • adjective Flooded with seawater.
  • adjective Found in or near such a flooded area.
  • transitive verb To add, treat, season, or sprinkle with salt.
  • transitive verb To cure or preserve by treating with salt or a salt solution.
  • transitive verb To provide salt for (deer or cattle).
  • transitive verb To add zest or liveliness to.
  • transitive verb To give an appearance of value to by fraudulent means, especially to place valuable minerals in (a mine) for the purpose of deceiving.
  • idiom (salt of the earth) A person or group considered the best or most worthy part of society.
  • idiom (worth (one's) salt) Efficient and capable.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To sprinkle, impregnate, or season with salt, or with a salt: as, to salt fish, beef, or pork.
  • To fill with salt between the timbers and planks, as a ship, for the preservation of the timber.
  • To furnish with salt; feed salt to: as, to salt cows.
  • In soap-making, to add salt to (the lye in the kettles) after saponification of the fatty ingredients, in order to separate the soap from the lye.
  • In photography, to impregnate (paper, canvas, or other tissue) with a salt or mixture of salts in solution, which, when treated with other solutions, form new compounds in the texture.
  • To make, as a freshman, drink salt water, by way of initiation, according to a university custom of the sixteenth century.
  • To deposit salt, as a saline substance: as, the brine begins to salt.
  • noun See sault.
  • noun A compound (NaCl) of chlorin with the metallic base of the alkali soda, one of the most abundantly disseminated and important of all substances.
  • noun In chem., any acid in which one or more atoms of hydrogen have been replaced with metallic atoms or basic radicals; any base in which the hydrogen atoms have been more or less replaced by non-metallic atoms or acid radicals; also, the product of the direct union of a metallic oxid and an anhydrid.
  • noun plural A salt (as Epsom salts, etc.) used as a medicine. See also smelling-salts.
  • noun A marshy place flooded by the tide.
  • noun A salt-cellar.
  • noun In heraldry, a bearing representing a high decorative salt-cellar, intended to resemble those used in the middle ages. In modern delineations this is merely a covered vase.
  • noun Seasoning; that which preserves a thing from corruption, or gives taste and pungency to it.
  • noun Taste; smack; savor; flavor.
  • noun Wit; piquancy; pungency; sarcasm: as, Attic salt (which see, under Attic).
  • noun Modification; hence, allowance; abatement; reserve: as, to take a thing with a grain of salt (see phrase below).
  • noun A bronzing material, the chlorid or butter of antimony, used in browning gun-barrels and other iron articles.
  • noun Lecherous desire.
  • noun A sailor, especially an experienced sailor.
  • Having the taste or pungency of salt; impregnated with, containing, or a bounding in salt: as, salt water.
  • Prepared or preserved with salt: as, salt beef; salt fish.
  • Overflowed with or growing in salt water: as, salt grass or hay.
  • Sharp; bitter; pungent.
  • Costly; dear; expensive: as, he paid a salt price for it.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English sealt; see sal- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English sealt, from Proto-Germanic *saltan (cf. Dutch zout, German Salz, Swedish salt), from Proto-Indo-European *seh₂l- (cf. Welsh halen, Old Irish salann, Latin sal, Russian соль (sol'), Ancient Greek ἅλς (háls), Albanian ngjelmë ("salty, savory"), Old Armenian աղ (ał), Tocharian A sāle, Sanskrit सलिल (salila)).


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word salt.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Captured at Yorktown, "50 bags salt, 50 bushels."

    October 29, 2007

  • Take one of my tears,

    Throw it into the ocean

    and watch the salt in the wounds

    Of this earth and men begin to disappear.

    - Hafiz, translation by Daniel Ladinsky.

    December 8, 2007

  • ...we were too salt to believe every yarn that comes into the forecastle, and waited to hear the truth of the matter from higher authority.

    - Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, ch. 25

    September 9, 2008

  • In every shop and on the roads:


    In proper measure

    Bringing out the taste,

    The flavor and spirit

    Of our food, hot or cold.

    Why should pepper get

    So much admiration

    When salt does all the work?

    - Ghirmai Yohannes, 'Unjust Praise', translated from the Tigrinya by Charles Cantalupo and Ghirmai Negash.

    November 10, 2008

  • In heraldry, a bearing representing a high decorative salt-cellar, intended to resemble those used in the middle ages.

    January 15, 2013

  • Interesting usage/historical note on spices.

    December 2, 2016