Take It With A Grain (Pinch) Of Salt – Behind The Skepticism

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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.

Take it with a grain of salt means to view something with skepticism or not to interpret it literally. It’s an invitation to question the validity or truthfulness of a statement.

An idiom, such as take it with a grain of salt, is a phrase or expression whose meaning is not deducible from the literal definitions of its individual words. Idiomatic expressions are important because they serve as reminders of valuable lessons learned throughout history, and this one reminds us that not everything should be accepted at face value.

If you want to learn the correct way to utilize the expression take it with a grain of salt, and whether or not to use grain or pinch, then you’re in luck! I’ll cover its origins, meanings, and how it applies to various aspects of life and language with examples and alternatives.

Take It With A Grain Pinch Of Salt – Behind The Skepticism 3

What Does the Idiom Take It with a Grain of Salt Mean?

The idiom take it with a grain of salt means to view information skeptically or with doubt, understanding that it may not be entirely accurate or reliable.

According to the Collins Dictionary, “If you take something with a grain of salt, you do not believe that it is completely accurate or true.”

The idiom suggests a degree of skepticism or caution when considering the truthfulness or accuracy of a statement or claim. It’s mostly used when there’s potential exaggeration, misinformation, or when the source isn’t entirely reliable.

You know what I’m thinking—social media. No matter which corner of the internet you hang out in, you must take everything you hear and view online with a grain or pinch of salt. There’s so much deception, misdirection, and unreliable information flooding every channel that you simply can’t trust any of it until you can absolutely prove it’s true.

This is what I tell my kids as I prepare them for the moment we allow them to use social media. I think there’s a whole generation or two that weren’t warned about these things because it’s only become a problem in recent years. Then again, I also have to warn my boomer father about the perils of social media and to take everything he sees with a pinch of salt.

Variations of the Idiom

Some phrases and expressions alter slightly when used in different contexts or regional dialects. If you hear either one of these variations, just know that they mean the same thing.  

  • Take it with a pinch of salt (more common in the UK)
  • Accept it with a pinch of salt
  • Digest it with a grain of salt
  • Take it with a grain of skepticism

How Is Take It with a Grain of Salt Commonly Used in Context?

When people encounter questionable information, they often invoke the idiom take it with a grain of salt to express a level of skepticism. This idiom implies a cautious and discerning approach, urging individuals to consider the information with a healthy dose of doubt.

Whether it’s a piece of gossip, a rumor, or even advice, understanding the nuanced use of this expression can significantly impact one’s perception of the information at hand.

What Are the Different Ways to Use Take It with a Grain of Salt?

Here are a few different ways you can use take it with a grain of salt in different contexts:

  • In conversations at work: To express doubt about rumors or gossip. “I heard that Lexa got promoted over Clarke, who’s been here longer, but take it with a grain of salt until it’s confirmed.”
  • In analyzing news or information: When discussing potentially unreliable or biased news sources. “If you’re watching the presidential debate tonight, be sure to take everything they say with a grain of salt.”
  • To relay potentially bad news: If you want to cautiously prepare someone. “Look, I heard there might be an appearance from the aunt we don’t like, but take it with a pinch of salt until we know for sure.”

What Are Some Tips for Using Take It with a Grain of Salt Effectively?

Here are a few tips for using take it with a grain of salt effectively in your conversation or writing:

  • Employ it to encourage others to use critical thinking and questioning.
  • It’s really helpful when you’re discussing unverified information or speculation.
  • Avoid using the phrase to dismiss information without proper evaluation. This could offend others.

Where Can You Find Examples of Take It with a Grain of Salt?

We often see this idiom thrown about in journalism, literature, and movies, usually to indicate that a character’s words or a piece of information may not be entirely trustworthy.

One of my favorite singers, John Legend, once said, “Sometimes I just think people are haters. And if they’re haters, you can listen to what they have to say, but you have to take it with a grain of salt.” I just love that quote!

Part of the idiom also doubles as the title for a popular Doja Cat song, and it’s also the name of an inspirational book by Zohra Damani.

What Is the Origin of the Idiom Take It with a Grain of Salt?

The phrase take it with a grain of salt originated from ancient times. It’s said to have derived from a Latin phrase used by Pliny the Elder in 77 AD in his Naturalis Historia, referring to a recipe for an antidote to poisons, which included a grain of salt. 

The excerpt reads:

“After the defeat of that mighty monarch, Mithridates, Gnaeus Pompeius found in his private cabinet a recipe for an antidote in his own handwriting; it was to the following effect: Take two dried walnuts, two figs, and twenty leaves of rue; pound them all together, with the addition of a grain of salt; if a person takes this mixture fasting, he will be proof against all poisons for that day.”

But how does this situation birth an idiom, like take it with a grain or pinch of salt? The idea suggests that something bad can be avoided by including a bit of salt.

The saying can be found in print over the centuries, too. John Trapp’s religious commentary on the bible in 1647 reads:

“This is to be taken with a grain of salt.”

Also, in 1948, Cicero & the Roman Republic stated: 

“A more critical spirit slowly developed, so that Cicero and his friends took more than the proverbial pinch of salt before swallowing everything written by these earlier authors.”

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

Over centuries, the idiom evolved from its literal reference to an antidote ingredient to a metaphorical suggestion to view information with skepticism.

What Are Some Related Terms to Take It with a Grain of Salt?

Play with some alternatives to the expression to mix things up in your conversations or in your writing.

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  • Be skeptical
  • Question it
  • Doubt it
  • Don’t trust everything you hear
  • You can’t believe everything you hear


  • Take it as gospel
  • Accept unquestioningly
  • Believe wholeheartedly

Take it with a grain of salt: Test Your Knowledge!

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What Have We Learned About Take It with a Grain of Salt?

To take it with a grain (or pinch) of salt teaches us the importance of skepticism and critical analysis. It’s a gentle reminder not to blindly accept information but to weigh it against reason and evidence instead.

This idiom isn’t just about doubt; it’s about developing an inquisitive mind and a discerning eye, essential in navigating a world rife with information of varying reliability. Now that you’ve got the details about its meaning and origin and some variations and alternatives, you should be ready to use the expression confidently.

Keep questioning, keep learning, and remember, sometimes a pinch of salt is all you need to find the truth. For more helpful guides to idiomatic expressions and effective communication, explore my other articles right here on the site!