Salt of the Earth | Meaning & Example Sentences

The idiom salt of the earth refers to a person or group of people who are honest, hardworking, and reliable.

“Salt of the earth” originates from the Bible, specifically the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells the people, “You are the salt of the earth,” referring to the high value placed on salt. It used to be quite valuable, as it was used to preserve food; by comparing the people to salt, he was calling them indispensable and trustworthy.

Examples: Salt of the earth in a sentence
The people I met while traveling through small towns were real, salt of the earth people.

My grandpa is the salt of the earth; he built his house with his bare hands and volunteers at soup kitchens.

Growing up in the mountains, I’ve been surrounded by people who are the salt of the earth.

How to use salt of the earth

“Salt of the earth” is used to describe a person or people. As an idiom, it doesn’t refer literally to the earth’s salt but rather to grounded, hardworking people.

You use this term when you are describing someone who is morally sound and has a strong work ethic. It is a positive attribute and is generally considered a compliment (e.g., “You are my best friend and the salt of the earth”).

The phrase “salt of the earth” is usually preceded by the definite article “the,” though this is not always the case. Sometimes, “salt of the earth” will be preceded by one or more adjectives and will not require “the” (e.g., “Our governor represents us hardworking, salt of the earth people”).

Examples: Salt of the earth in a sentence
I am a working-class, salt of the earth individual.

My favorite people are the loyal, salt of the earth types.

Salt of the earth people are usually drama-free and easy to talk to.

Frequently asked questions about the salt of the Earth

What does it mean to be the salt of the earth?

If you are the salt of the earth, you are someone who is humble, gracious, and loyal. You have a great work ethic and sense of responsibility, and others look up to you.

What is the origin of salt of the earth?

The expression “salt of the earth” originates from the Bible, wherein Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Is salt of the earth a compliment?

Yes, calling someone “the salt of the earth” could be considered a compliment. When you say this about someone, you mean they are driven and trustworthy, which are both positive characteristics.

What is a synonym for salt of the earth?

Some synonyms or near synonyms for “salt of the earth” include: 

  • Admirable 
  • Decent
  • Honorable 
  • Straight arrow 
  • Upright person
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Paige Pfeifer, BA

Paige teaches QuillBot writers about grammar rules and writing conventions. She has a BA in English, which she received by reading and writing a lot of fiction. That is all she knows how to do.