In Ironborn culture a salt wife is a concubine. They are the women kidnapped by the ironmen during raids. An ironborn may keep several salt wives, but only one ironborn "rock wife". Salt wives are bound to their captors in a religious ceremony, though it is considered a lesser ceremony than that of their rock wife. The number of salt wives kept by an ironman is a symbol of status and virility.
Unlike Dornish paramours, salt wives have a low status in the society of the Iron Islands, on the same level of thralls. They are not, however, considered whores or slaves, and their sons can even inherit property or lands in lieu of trueborn heirs born of a man's rock wife. One example is of Lord Toron Greyjoy, the salt son of Lord Dalton Greyjoy, who died without having taken a rock wife; however, a war of succession ensued in the Iron Islands on his father's demise.
Once I might have carried you home as a prize, and kept you to wife whether you willed it or no. The ironmen of old did such things. A man had his rock wife, his true bride, ironborn like himself, but he had his salt wives too, women captured on raids.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 11, Theon I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - The Voyage of Alyn Oakenfist.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 11, The Kraken's Daughter.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 18, The Iron Captain.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 11, Theon I, p 168.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 63, Victarion I.