When someone is referred to as salt of the earth that person is solid, dependable, unpretentious, honest. For thousands of years salt was a precious commodity, and to call someone the salt of the earth was a great compliment. The term salt of the earth first appears in the New Testament. In Biblical times, salt was obtained either from the evaporation of the Dead Sea or mined from a limestone ridge near the Dead Sea. The salt harvested from areas where the Dead Sea evaporated could be subject to contamination, making the salt mined from the earth superior. Therefore, being called the salt of the earth was a great compliment. In the late 1300s Chaucer used the term in The Summoner’s Tale. Salt of the earth is a noun, the phrase may be hyphenated as in salt-of-the-earth when used as an adjective before a noun.
“They are the salt of the earth, with incredible souls — just really good people,” said Stewart Riggs, a friend. (The Knoxville News Sentinel)
Ron and Bill were the salt of the earth, and they were in business with a maniac. (Vanity Fair)
There’s a modern assumption that cycling is fantastic, that we should all want to do it, that people who cycle are the salt of the earth, closer to God or a higher power. (The Independent)
The people you represent, ordinary truckies, are the salt of the earth — and your people are being treated in the most appalling manner. (The Australian Business Review)
Meanwhile, the comparatively dire problems of the book’s working-class characters — the wounded waitress, a widowed 9-11 rescuer, and a disabled, hotheaded Italian-American pizza man, all beneficent salt-of-the-earth types — exist solely to provide a somber counterpoint to the frivolous grievances of the Plumbs and their cohort. (The Boston Globe)