Word Origin & History
O.E. sealt (n. and adj.), from P.Gmc. *saltom (cf. O.S., O.N., O.Fris., Goth. salt, Du. zout, Ger. Salz), from PIE *sal- "salt" (cf. Gk. hals (gen. halos) "salt, sea," L. sal, O.C.S. soli, O.Ir. salann, Welsh halen, O.C.S. sali "salt"). Meaning "experienced sailor" is first attested 1840, in ref. 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, cf. worth one's salt (1830), salt of the earth (O.E., after Matt. v:13). Belief that spilling salt brings bad luck is attested from 16c. To be above (or below) the salt (1597) 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. The verb is from O.E. sealtan, from P.Gmc. *salto-. Salt-lick first recorded 1751; salt marsh is O.E. sealtne mersc. Salt-and-pepper "of dark and light color" first recorded 1915. To take something with a grain of salt is from 1647, from Mod.L. cum grano salis. Saltine "salted cracker" is from 1907; salt-water taffy (1894) so called because it originally was sold at seashore resorts, esp. Atlantic City, N.J.
Cold War U.S.-U.S.S.R. nuclear weapons negotiations, 1968, acronym for "Strategic Arms Limitation Talks." The last element sometimes also is understood as treaty.