Take With a Grain of Salt

Also used: With a Pinch of Salt

Meaning of Idiom ‘Take (something) With a Grain of Salt’


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To take something with a grain of salt means to be skeptical about it; to not consider something to be completely true or correct; to have reservations about something.

Usage

Usually, this idiom is not used to say something is an outright lie but that it is exaggerated or only partly correct.

Examples Of Use

“I take his wild stories with a grain of salt. He likes to be the center of attention.”

“You should take lists of common idioms with a grain of salt as they are not based on any solid data.”

“Sara says she has pneumonia so she can’t come to work.” “Take that with a grain of salt. She probably has a common cold!”

Origin

To take something with a grain of salt is one of many salt-related expressions in English and many other languages, along with many salt-related superstitions.

As for idioms, the idioms worth one’s salt and salt of the earth are two familiar examples. But, why should a grain of salt allude to skepticism or disbelief?

Some scholars think that the idiom began in Roman times, coming from the Latin cum grano salis, attributed to Pliny the Elder.

Pliny, in Natural History, from the first century BC, told a tale about Pompey who, when he took over the palace of Mithrades discovered a poison antidote, composed of various ingredients. This antidote was to be taken while fasting cum grano salis, or ‘with a grain of salt.’

So, the modern idiom, according to this theory, came from the idea that a grain of salt protected one from poison, which transferred eventually to protecting one from undue acceptance of misinformation or untrue, misleading, or exaggerated statements.

In English, this idiom appears in print as early as the 1600s.

Another popular claim is that the original intention was not to figuratively invoke protection, but seasoning. That is, a grain of salt is all it takes to improve the flavor of food and make it go down a bit easier.

This means the allusion may have originally been to making untruthful statements “easier to swallow.” And, in fact, we have another idiom “hard to swallow” which means “hard to believe.”

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