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Word and Phrase Origins

What does the old saying 'take it with a grain of salt' mean?


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May 22, 2011 8:39PM

With a Grain of Salt

You should take what you hear and evaluate it on your own, don't take it for being the truth or correct. The phrase is usually used when a person it giving you the 'low down' on what another person has told you. It is a warning that what that person has said, or may say, is not necessarily correct and accurate.


My grandmother used to say this to me all the time. Basically, it means to be skeptical or to question something that someone has told you. For example, if someone has a tendency to exaggerate, you'll want to take what they have said with a grain or pinch of salt. says that the expression is a translation of the Latin cum grano salis, which Pliny used in describing Pompey's discovery of an antidote for poison (to be taken with a grain of salt).


To take 'with a grain of salt' means to take with a heavy dose of skepticism, caution and suspicion.

The saying came from the old cure for poison - a pinch of salt. Salt was said to have healing properties, so to eat a meal 'with a pinch of salt' meant that you suspected the meal of being poisoned.