I just finished up a unit on minerals with my kids, and I have to say that my absolute favorite discovery was a book about salt. I’ve been meaning to read Mark Kurlansky’s Salt: A World History for a while, so I was delighted when I discovered that I could get the big picture from his lovely version for kids: The Story of Salt. This post is brought to you by one of his fascinating sidebars.
The path the word takes over time is nothing terribly unusual. The Middle English salarie came through Anglo-Norman, which I suppose is interesting as it points to a leap that came earlier than many of the words we talk about. The Latin word that birthed the Anglo-Norman form was salarium, meaning “of salt.” This stemmed through lots of exciting grammatical nuance from sal, “salt.”
Originally, Roman soldiers were given a ration of salt as part of their pay. Eventually, someone realized it would be easier to give them money to buy their own salt, so they received their “salt money” instead. A bit of history and some fun word shifts later, the word “soldier” is derived from the name for the coin they were given with which to buy salt.
“Salad” also comes from sal. The Latin noun birthed a Vulgar Latin verb salare, meaning “to salt,” which took the usual path through Old French into Middle English to give us salade.