When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they brought with them their word salarie, the precursor of salary, that which we all work toward. Through the Old French word salaire, this comes from the Latin term salarium, which also had a definition of "wage". However, far more shockingly, as we move backwards to salarius, it actually meant "of, or pertaining to, salt". How did this nigh-psychedelic transition occur? Well, etymologists think it's because the Roman army used to pay some of its soldiers in salt, which was a valuable commodity back then! So now we trace money to an ionic compound, but what came before that was the root sal, "salt". This seems to be from a cognate in Proto-Indo-European, a root which also sounded like sal and meant "salt", from whence our word salt derived (through Proto-Germanic saltom and Old English sealt). Next time, ask for your wages in NaCl, or even better, 1-butylpyridinium bromide.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd