Rub Salt in the Wound

Also:

Pour salt on the wound
Rub it in

Meaning of Idiom ‘Rub Salt in (or into) the Wound’

To rub salt in someone’s wound is to make a bad or painful situation worse, such as by pointing out a person’s mistakes or shortcomings, teasing, or reminding them of how bad a situation is. When someone rubs salt into your wound, they make you feel worse than you did before., often deliberately. 1Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.,2Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

Usage

Although the expression rub salt into the wound has a slightly different meaning than the idiom rub someone’s nose in it, the two are often used in similar situations, together with the shortened version of this idiom ‘to rub it in.’ However, the present idiom is not always used to refer to reminding someone of a fault or mistake. It can be used in regards to something as simple as laughing at a person, or in regards to situations or circumstances. For example, to have to watch someone else receive an award that you were supposed to win might be said to “rub salt into the wound” even though nobody actually spoke to you about it or sought to make you feel worse.

Examples Of Use

“It was bad enough getting fired, you don’t have to rub salt in the wound by telling me how bad I screwed up.”

“After Sue missed the winning goal, her teammates rubbed salt in the wound by making fun of her.”

“It’s bad enough that Blake was given the position of lead real estate agent. Seeing his picture on billboards is really rubbing salt into the wound.”

“I had to go to summer school to make up for missed work before I could graduate from high school. I had been sick for months! My friends all rubbed salt into the wound by calling me a flunky.”

“Look, I know you have a better car than I do. You don’t have to rub it in by asking me if I need a ride all the time.”

Origin

Used since at least the mid-1800’s.

Although rubbing salt into wounds, such as those caused by flogging, has at times been used as a cruel punishment, the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all used salt on wounds for its supposed medicinal value. Often, salt was mixed with honey and used as an ointment. Salt was thought to prevent infection and to dry out the wound. Salt, or salt water, was often used as an antiseptic aboard ship, as well. The intense stinging pain this caused gave rise to the expression.3Rooney, Anne. The History of Medicine. Rosen Pub. Group, 2013.4Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.

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Sources   [ + ]

1, 4. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
3. Rooney, Anne. The History of Medicine. Rosen Pub. Group, 2013.