Sunday, February 28, 2010

Word Origin: "Salary" - Naked Economics III

This is the third in a series of posts on Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan.
"The word 'salary' comes from the wages paid to Roman soldiers, who were paid in sacks of sal-salt." P. 177.
I thought this was an interesting tidbit so I researched it a little more and per the Wikipedia entry on salary, it comes from the Roman word salarium. There is apparently some dispute over the exact meaning of salarium. The soldiers (interesting sidenote, some people believe the word "soldier" derives from the Latin sal dare meaning "to give salt") were apparently paid in salt at one point. The actual term salarium may have been a reference to these salt payments, or alternatively, the allowance given to soldiers to pay for salt or "the price of having soldiers conquer salt supplies and guard the Salt Roads."

Aside from these minor quibbles, the inescapable truth is that our modern day "salary" derives from soldiers and salt. Fortunately, we don't have to drag home sacks of salt every other Friday!