What does saltcellar mean and Where does the term “saltcellar” come from?

This container for salt has nothing in common with the cellar of a house, except its spelling. And the spelling is a mistake.

It should be, and originally was, saler. If we returned to that spelling, however, it would be redundant to leave salt in front of it, because saler itself denoted a saltcellar.

The old word, used in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in England, was derived from the Latin adjective salarius, “pertaining to salt.”

The early English container was commonly of pewter, but was made of gold or silver for noble or wealthy persons.

In the houses of the great, the position of the saler on the table separated the honored guests from those unhonored. Those whom the host honored, he placed “above the salt,” or toward the end that he graced.

All others sat “below the salt.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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