Dictionary.com Word FAQs

What is the origin of the phrase grain of salt?

We often are told or tell others to "take [something] with a grain of salt" - but do you have any idea where this catchphrase comes from or what it means? Firstly, with a grain of salt means 'with reservations; skeptically'. Though the saying's origin is ultimately unknown, it implies that a pinch of salt can often make food more palatable or easier to swallow. There is also a story that Pliny the Elder wrote about Pompey's seizing of the palace of Mithridates (in Pliny's Historia Naturalis). Pompey found the king's fabled secret antidote against poisons that had protected the king against assassins. This antidote had 72 ingredients and the last line of the formula read "to be taken fasting, plus a grain of salt (Latin cum grano salis)." Pliny's remark supposedly begat the use of this saying, which came to mean 'to accept something with reservations, to avoid swallowing something whole'.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
About PRIVACY POLICY Terms Careers Advertise with Us Contact Us Our Blog Suggest a Word Help