All About Salt

What's the chemical name for table salt?

And the answer: sodium chloride.

Table salt is less commonly known by its chemical name, sodium chloride. It's made with a 1:1 ratio of sodium and chloride ions. Now you can impress your family at the dinner table by asking, "Can you please pass the sodium chloride?"

Beyond the realm of the scientific, salt has been a major player in global trade, an essential element of various cultures, and an integral piece of world history dating back many millennia. Its presence is so pervasive that its namesake can be found in words like "salary" and "salad," names acquired through their relationship to this dinnertime staple. Salt has been the cause of bitter warfare, served as a form of money, and been a source of economic gain in many instances throughout its long and winding history.

Salt also holds an important place in religion. Greek worshipers consecrated salt in their rituals, while in the Buddhist tradition salt is used to ward off evil spirits. Jewish Temple offerings included salt; on the Sabbath, people of the Jewish faith still dip their bread in salt as a remembrance of those sacrifices. In the Old Testament, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. Covenants in both the Old and New Testaments were often sealed with salt – the origin of the word "salvation."

Civilizations predating recorded history participated in the trade and cultivation of salt to great success and economic gain. Entire cities have appeared in the wake of its trade; such is the case of Salzburg, Austria — literally the "city of salt" — and of the via Salaria (the road of salt) in Italy.

In sum, the answer is yes, salt can do (if it hasn't already) any and everything. Check out the documentary below to learn more about the harvest, trade and culture surrounding this ancient mineral.


Question of the Day Mobile App
Breaking the Sound Barrier
Magical Realism
You've successfully subscribed to Question of the Day
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Question of the Day
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.