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Q: "Take it with a grain of salt" origins ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: "Take it with a grain of salt" origins
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: mrtrivia-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 14 Mar 2003 12:03 PST
Expires: 13 Apr 2003 13:03 PDT
Question ID: 176207
I was wondering what the origin of the phrase "take it with a grain of
salt" was.  Why does this mean to be skeptical?
Subject: Re: "Take it with a grain of salt" origins
Answered By: thx1138-ga on 14 Mar 2003 12:29 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello mrtrivia and thank you for your question.

There are several explanations as to the origins of the phrase "take
it with a grain of salt" and it's interesting that you use the word
"grain" in your question, I usually use "pinch" however the phrase has
the same meaning:

"Dear Word Detective: Please help me! I have been looking forever for
the origins of the phrase "Take that with a grain of salt." I was
hoping you could help. -- Bethany Lankin, via the internet."
"To "take something with a grain of salt," of course, means to not
entirely believe a story, or to view it with a healthy degree of
skepticism. It doesn't mean that you think the person recounting the
story is completely crazy or making it all up. It just means you don't
want to be close enough to get caught under the net his keepers are
fixing to drop on him.

It's fitting that you've been looking for the origin of this phrase
"forever," because "with a grain of salt" has been around nearly that
long. It's actually a translation of the Latin phrase "cum grano
salis." There seems to be a bit of a debate about the significance of
the Latin phrase, however. Etymologist Christine Ammer traces it to
Pompey's discovery, recorded by Pliny in 77 A.D., of an antidote to
poison which had to be taken with a small amount of salt to be
effective. Everyone else seems to bypass that explanation and trace
"with a grain of salt" to the dinner table, where a dash of salt can
often make uninspired cooking more palatable. "With a grain of salt"
first appeared in English in 1647, and has been in constant use since


Take with a pinch of salt 

Accept a truth but with reservations.
The idea comes from the fact that food is more easily swallowed if
taken with a small amount of salt. Pliny the elder translated an
ancient antidote for poison with the words 'be taken fasting, plus a
grain of salt'. The phrase has only been in use since the 17th century


"with a grain of salt
With reservations; skeptically: Take that advice with a grain of


According to Mirriam Websters dictionary:
"Main Entry: grain of salt
Date: 1647
: a skeptical attitude"


From Wikipedia:
"Grain of salt
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 

A grain of salt is a literal translation of an ancient Latin phrase,
cum grano salis.

A sort of proverb, the Latin expression indicated that in everything
we should use at least a grain of the salt with which the head was, in
Roman times, presumed to be filled. It was, then, a recall to common
sense, a request for prudence or reflection before action.

To take something "with a grain of salt" now means to accept it less
than fully. The Oxford English Dictionary dates this usage back to


Thank you for your question, ansd if you have and questions regarding
my answer do not hesitate to ask for a clarification.

Best regards


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"with a pinch of salt" origins phrase
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