The Meaning of Salt of the Earth: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of salt of the earth? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the term salt of the earth, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the phrase salt of the earth mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Dictionary, the term salt of the earth refers to some individual or group or people who represent the best or noblest elements of society. This is often used to refer to a good, honest, dependable person who others can rely on. This honest person often performs good works. Using the term salt of the earth does have connotations of someone who might be lower class, and it is more common to use this term to describe a blue-collar, hard working laborer than a white-collar professional. You might have come across this term in a bible study, because Jesus Christ used it during his Sermon on the Mount to address the group of people before him. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

Many different languages also use phrases that mean salt of the earth. You may notice that many of these phrases look similar to each other. This is likely because these languages share a common origin or ancestral language, such as Latin or Greek. Cognates, which are words or phrases that look, sound, and mean something similar across languages, are often formed this way. This list of translations for the term salt of the earth is provided by Word Sense.

  • Polish: sól ziemi‎
  • Swedish: Jordens salt‎
  • Hebrew: מלח הארץ‎
  • Arabic: ملح الأرض‎
  • Romanian: sarea pământului‎
  • Finnish: kunnon‎ ihminen‎
  • Portuguese: sal da terra‎ (masc.)
  • German: Salz der Erde‎ (neut.)
  • Russian: соль земли́‎ (fem.)
  • French: sel de la Terre‎ (masc.)
  • Catalan: sal de la terra‎
  • Spanish: sal de la tierra‎
  • Mandarin: 中坚力量‎
  • Italian: sale della terra‎ (masc.)

How can the phrase salt of the earth be used in a sentence?

The phrase salt of the earth can be used in many different sentences to describe someone who is hard working and a noble, honest person. In this example, Jen is gushing about the neighbors to her husband Tom.

Jen: They’re just so nice! Look, they gave us lemon bars to welcome us to the neighborhood. Did you know the husband, Tony, has owned a plumbing business in this town since 1965? 

Tom: Wow. They really are so nice. Salt of the earth.

Jen: Definitely. We should make something in return!

What are synonyms and antonyms for the phrase salt of the earth?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the term salt of the earth. Synonyms are a useful English language grammatical device to know if you are working on expanding your vocabulary, as well as if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the term salt of the earth is provided by Thesaurus

  • upright
  • worthy
  • immaculate
  • kosher
  • truthful
  • eminent
  • righteous
  • exemplary
  • respectable
  • conscientious
  • honorable
  • popular
  • seemly
  • upright person
  • in high favor
  • praiseworthy
  • meet
  • just
  • noble
  • high-ranking
  • good
  • legitimate
  • estimable
  • straight shooter
  • favored
  • acclaimed
  • excellent
  • celebrated
  • incorruptible
  • reliable
  • courteous
  • true-blue
  • straightforward
  • moralistic
  • of good repute
  • principled
  • square shooter
  • trustworthy
  • constant
  • upstanding
  • modest
  • dependable
  • blameless
  • correct
  • pure
  • saintly
  • notable
  • square
  • redoubted
  • virtuous
  • laudable
  • chaste
  • esteemed
  • famous
  • elevated
  • honored
  • moral
  • faithful
  • scrupulous
  • meritorious
  • right
  • distinguished
  • famed
  • well-thought-of
  • proper
  • sincere
  • high-principled
  • dutiful
  • creditable
  • prominent
  • illustrious
  • kindly
  • innocent
  • aboveboard
  • honest
  • renowned
  • good person
  • decorous
  • straight
  • decent
  • fair
  • high-minded
  • well-known

There are also numerous different words and phrases that have the opposite meaning of the term salt of the earth. These are called antonyms, which are also very useful to know if you are working on your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the term salt of the earth is also provided by Thesaurus

  • untrustworthy
  • two-faced
  • profiteering
  • no good
  • wrong
  • baneful
  • perfidious
  • depraved
  • spiteful
  • disastrous
  • low
  • extortionate
  • corrupt
  • reprobate
  • gone to the dogs
  • praetorian
  • beastly
  • loathsome
  • crooked
  • fast and loose
  • nefarious
  • tainted
  • foul
  • rancorous
  • racket up
  • repulsive
  • iniquitous
  • vicious
  • wide open
  • snide
  • malevolent
  • padded
  • hideous
  • faithless
  • atrocious
  • inconstant
  • ugly
  • wrathful
  • harmful
  • damnable
  • shady
  • base
  • mercenary
  • exploiting
  • malicious
  • unethical
  • poison
  • obscene
  • calamitous
  • treacherous
  • malignant
  • villainous
  • wicked
  • unscrupulous
  • unpropitious
  • hateful
  • revolting
  • venal
  • angry
  • unpleasant
  • bribable
  • debauched
  • knavish
  • open
  • suborned
  • fraudulent
  • bent
  • on the take
  • maleficent
  • unfaithful
  • fixed
  • unprincipled
  • rotten
  • immoral
  • evil
  • stinking
  • injurious
  • flagitious
  • repugnant
  • pernicious
  • execrable
  • double-dealing
  • vile
  • destructive
  • bad
  • underhanded
  • heinous
  • offensive

What is the origin of the term salt of the earth?

According to Phrases and Courant, the term salt of the earth is an expression from the bible. This phrase comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:13, Jesus addresses the people by saying, “You are the salt of the earth. “ In this New Testament passage, Jesus means that the common people he is addressing are worthy and virtuous. In biblical times, salt was very valuable and a prized preservative of food. It was also used as money. Roman soldiers were paid in salt, which is where we get the term salary.  Some people postulate that “of the earth” could be a reference to using salt to accelerate burning in ovens, to salt that was literally mine from the earth. Or that the virtuous people were connected to the land as farmers, or down-to-earth people. 

Overall, the phrase salt of the earth is used to refer to a good, honest, moral person. This term is often associated with blue-collar workers and has its origins in the New Testament of the bible.