Salary is a fixed and regular form of payment or compensation from an employer to an employee in return for their services or performed work. But where do the word and its meaning come from?
The word Salary originates from the Middle English word “salarie” and the Latin word “salarium” which means “salt money.” The root of the word is sal or salt.
When considering the etymology of the word salary, it has nothing to do with money and more to do with salt. In ancient Rome, was used as a medium of exchange for trading when trading was all about a simple exchange of goods (bartering system) The The soldiers received a handful of salt as payment in return for their work each day. Then they could trade the salt for other things, mainly food. The well-known saying “being worth one’s salt” relates to this because when soldiers did a good job, they were considered worth the salt they earned. Since salt was not as easily available as it is today, it was a valuable commodity in ancient times, and thus used as a currency. The word salarium was initially defined as money given to Roman soldiers to buy Salt, and later as an allowance of provisions given to soldiers, of which salt was definitely a part.
Around the time of the Hebrew Book of Ezra (550 to 450 BC, part from the Hebrew Bible) taking salt from a person was suggestive of getting sustenance, accepting payment and being at that person’s service. So these are all examples of how receiving forms of pay was associated with receiving salt, and it seems quite suitable for this practice to evoke the need for a specific word to come into use.
The concept of salary continues to evolve today as a part of a total reward and compensation system. Apart from the fixed basic salary, this system comprises of bonuses, benefits, perks, commissions, and vouchers. These additional benefits are tools which help employers link rewards to employee’s measured performance.
The word salary has a few synonyms and other related terms which vary slightly in meaning; such as wage, earnings, pay, allowance reward, income, remuneration.