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mid-15c., from salt (n.) + saler "salt-cellar" (14c.), from Old French salier "salt box" (Modern French salière), from Latin salarium, noun use of adjective meaning "pertaining to salt," from a diminutive of Latin sal "salt." As the connection between *saler and "salt" was lost, salt- was tacked on to the beginning; second element altered on model of cellar.
receptacle for table salt, usually made of metal or glass. Salt was taken from it with small spoons. From the Middle Ages until at least the 16th century, salt was a relatively expensive commodity and was kept at the table in vessels commensurate with this status. A large and elaborate standing saltcellar, frequently made of silver, was the centrepiece of the medieval and Renaissance table. Medieval inventories record fantastic saltcellars incorporating figures of human beings and animals, some late examples of which survive. The most famous saltcellar in the world is of this figural type; it is a gold and enamel piece that was made by Benvenuto Cellini (q.v.) and is the supreme example of goldsmith work in the Renaissance. The earliest existing standard type of saltcellar consists of late 15th-century spool-shaped hourglass salts. These were superseded in the 16th century by pedestal- or drum-shaped saltcellars, such as the Vyvyan Salt (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)