Salt of the Earth – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

The idiom salt of the earth means someone who is genuine, trustworthy, and of great worth or reliability. Think of that neighbor who always lends a helping hand or a friend who stands by you, rain or shine.

The phrase might make you think of otherworldly kitchen staples, but its origin goes way beyond your spice cabinet to biblical times.

Idioms are terms and phrases that have somewhat of a metaphorical meaning, and we need them to elevate our words with visuals and emotions. Ready to look into the origin, meaning, and uses of this age-old expression? I’ve even got some sentence examples for you!

Salt of the Earth Meaning Explained

Salt of the Earth – Idiom Meaning and Origin

Basically, describing someone as the salt of the earth is high praise. It suggests they’re both valuable and humble, like how salt is simple yet such an essential seasoning. This person is genuinely unpretentious and is usually the backbone of any community or group.

I use this term to describe my dad quite often. He’s just one of those wise, dependable old-timers, and what you see is what you get with Mr. Osmond. He’s as salt of the earth as they come!

Capitalization and Punctuation

Usually, in the idiom “salt of the earth,” the word earth isn’t capitalized unless it begins a sentence. Also, no hyphens are needed here! The phrase flows as smoothly as salt sprinkling over your favorite dish.

The exception to this is when you’re using the idiom as an adjective placed before a noun.

  • I grew up with salt-of-the-earth people.

Salt of the Earth Origin and Etymology

Salt of the Earth Ngram
Salt of the earth usage trend.

This savory saying has biblical roots deriving from the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament. Jesus, addressing his followers in the book of Matthew (5:13), said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” The metaphor highlighted the value and integrity of his disciples, emphasizing their role in preserving faith and goodness, kind of like how salt preserves food.

Synonyms for Salt of the Earth

If you’re looking to spice up your language with alternatives, consider these synonyms in place of “salt of the earth.”

  • Pillar of society
  • True blue
  • Real deal
  • Heart of gold
  • Good egg

Using ‘Salt of the Earth’ Idiom in Sentence Examples

Salt of the Earth – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • My neighbor, Mr. Johnson, always volunteering in the community, is truly the salt of the earth.
  • Janice is the kind of genuine friend, the real salt of the earth, that you can count on.
  • Our local volunteer firefighters, always ready to help, are the salt of the earth.
  • Honey, if you ever need advice, go to Grandma; she’s the salt of the earth.
  • The charity workers are the salt of the earth.
  • “In times of crisis, you discover the salt of the earth people in your life,” he mused.
  • Growing up in a small Newfoundland town, I was surrounded by salt-of-the-earth folks who would give you the shirt off their back.
  • I think teachers are the true salt of the earth, teaching and preparing the next generation of people for the world.

Salt or Pepper?

From biblical passages to modern vernacular, salt of the earth remains a testament to the enduring power of the idioms we use to encompass human virtues. It’s a sprinkling of respect, a dash of admiration, and a heaping spoonful of authenticity. Fill your vocabulary’s pantry with more of my idiom guides!