This definition is very broad and covers so much that it is difficult to use as a definition (especially for learning English). It is, however, an accurate reflection of the many things people call a salad.
There are some things, such as baked salads, that are very different from other dishes called salads. The so-called baked salads are better called casseroles. The dictionary tries to cover everything.
So I am going to explain what a salad is and several types of salads with more restrictive and useful definitions. There are many different dishes called a salad. There are a lot of variations, but certain basic common features.
There are several things they all have in common. If I exclude the unusual dishes called salads, the definition can be tightened. A salad is:
A cold, vegetable mixture covered with a dressing.
However to fully understand a salad a few additional points should be understood. They may have additional foods, such as meat, fish and egg, added on top to make them more exciting. These salads with additions are still salads, but they were salads without the additions. So my definition can ignore them.
The word salad comes from the Old French salade and came into French from the Latin herba salata, meaning salted vegetables. Originally it was a bowl of pickles. It changed over time into the modern salad.
Salads are often used to balance the other dishes being served. So a sour salad might be served with fish. Hearty vegetable salads might be the main course. Sweet fruit salads might be dessert; with fruit replacing the vegetables. There are many types of salads, which I will explain and define in this set of articles.