Idiom:  rub / pour salt in the wound

Idiom pour salt in the wound


Idiom:  pour salt in the wound / rub salt into the wound

  • to make someone feel worse about a situation

Other forms:  It's common to say "rub salt in the wound," "pour salt in the wound "put salt in the wound." It's equally common to use "into" instead of "in" the wound. 


This expression is often used to describe someone who is being intentionally cruel or insensitive by highlighting someone's misfortune or shortcomings, even though they are already aware of the situation.

Say what?

Have you ever accidentally hurt yourself and then someone else comes along and starts touching the sore spot? That's kind of like what the expression "pour salt in the wound" means.

Imagine you fell and scraped your knee and then someone pointed and laughed at you. When someone is already having a hard time and someone else makes it worse on purpose, that's what we mean by "pouring salt in the wound".

This phrase comes from the literal meaning of the phrase, where salt is used to irritate or cause pain to a wound.

Wound definition

What's a wound?

A wound is an injury to the body, typically involving damage to the skin, tissue, or organs.

Wounds can happen because of accidents, falls, cuts, burns and infections. Wounds can range from minor cuts and bruises to severe injuries that require medical attention.

Whatever the cause, you probably don't want anyone to pour or rub salt in it. Ouch!

Example sentences

— My brother said I didn't make the cheer-leading squad because I’m fat. Talk about pouring salt into the wound.

— He made a huge mistake but please don't criticize him. He's learned the lesson and you’ll only rub salt into the wound.

— Did you ever notice how mom never wastes an opportunity to rub salt into the wound?

— My wife didn't want to pour salt in the wound after my daughter got caught shoplifting at the mall. But I was so angry I told her the dress she stole looked horrible on her anyway.

— It was bad enough that his ex-girlfriend broke up with him the week before exams but breaking up by text really rubbed salt in the wound.

— Giving her rapist child visitation rights is rubbing salt in the wound. He should never be allowed to see that child.

— My daughter's so-called friends not only made fun of her for going to our state college but poured salt in the wound teasing her because she can't afford to live on campus.

— I hated my boss but still I'd never rub salt into the wound after someone gets fired. My colleagues on the other hand didn't hesitate to snicker and wave goodbye as he was escorted out of the building.

— To pour salt in the wound, our boss posted photos of his week in Fiji after refusing to let any of us take vacation over the holidays.

— My nose surgery turned out horribly but everyone is pretending it looks great. I know they are trying to make me feel better but it's actually pouring salt into the wound.

— When Maria's relationship ended, her ex-boyfriend started dating her best friend. Maria felt like they were both rubbing salt in the wound by flaunting their relationship in front of her.

— Not only did I get passed over for the promotion at work but my colleague who got promoted keeps mentioning all the perks and benefits of the new job. My dad says I'm being too sensitive but don't you thank that's rubbing salt into the wound?

— Would you believe that the day after my dog died my next door neighbor poured salt in the wound by telling me how their new puppy was the best thing that ever happened to them?

— When Jake's team lost the championship game, his coach yelled him in front of the whole team, pointing out the key mistake he had made. Jake felt like his coach was pouring salt in the wound.

Jennifer:  Oh my God, after Sarah's boyfriend broke up with her, he posted about 20 pictures with his new girlfriend, including captions like "Never been happier." Jane:  Why would he rub salt in the wound like that? I hope Sarah no longer follows him on Instagram.

— When Robert's business failed, his banker called him to ask why he couldn't repay the loan. Robert felt like the banker was pouring salt in the wound.

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The following expressions convey the idea of making a bad situation worse by adding more pain, humiliation, or discomfort. However, the specific connotations and contexts of each expression may differ slightly:

  • rub it in
  • kick someone when they're down
  • add insult to injury
  • fan the flames
  • twist the knife
  • Make matters worse
  • Deepen the wound
  • Push someone's buttons

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