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[duhst] /dʌst/
earth or other matter in fine, dry particles.
a cloud of finely powdered earth or other matter in the air.
any finely powdered substance, as sawdust.
the ground; the earth's surface.
the substance to which something, as the dead human body, is ultimately reduced by disintegration or decay; earthly remains.
  1. ashes, refuse, etc.
  2. junk1 (def 1).
a low or humble condition.
anything worthless.
disturbance; turmoil.
the mortal body of a human being.
a single particle or grain.
Archaic. money; cash.
verb (used with object)
to wipe the dust from:
to dust a table.
to sprinkle with a powder or dust:
to dust rosebushes with an insecticide.
to strew or sprinkle (a powder, dust, or other fine particles):
to dust insecticide on a rosebush.
to soil with dust; make dusty.
verb (used without object)
to wipe dust from furniture, woodwork, etc.
to become dusty.
to apply dust or powder to a plant, one's body, etc.:
to dust with an insecticide in late spring.
bite the dust,
  1. to be killed, especially in battle; die.
  2. to suffer defeat; be unsuccessful; fail:
    Another manufacturer has bitten the dust.
dust off,
  1. Baseball. (of a pitcher) to throw the ball purposely at or dangerously close to (the batter).
  2. to take out or prepare for use again, as after a period of inactivity or storage:
    I'm going to dust off my accounting skills and try to get a job in the finance department.
  3. to beat up badly:
    The gang of hoodlums dusted off a cop.
leave one in the dust, to overtake and surpass a competitor or one who is less ambitious, qualified, etc.:
Don't be so meek, they'll leave you in the dust.
lick the dust,
  1. to be killed; die.
  2. to humble oneself abjectly; grovel:
    He will resign rather than lick the dust.
make the dust fly, to execute with vigor or speed:
We turned them loose on the work, and they made the dust fly.
shake the dust from one's feet, to depart in anger or disdain; leave decisively or in haste, especially from an unpleasant situation:
As the country moved toward totalitarianism, many of the intelligentsia shook the dust from their feet.
throw dust in someone's eyes, to mislead; deceive:
He threw dust in our eyes by pretending to be a jeweler and then disappeared with the diamonds.
Origin of dust
before 900; Middle English; Old English dūst; cognate with German Dunst vapor
Related forms
dustless, adjective
redust, verb (used with object)
undusted, adjective
well-dusted, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for dust
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Now, is it reasonable to believe that dust, however fine, will remain in the atmosphere at that elevation for over six months?

  • Again, the blade descended, bringing a spurt of dust from his clothing.

    Millennium Everett B. Cole
  • Titokowaru was safe in his bush retreat in the Ngatimaru Country, his last battle fought, his once godlike mana in the dust.

  • It is the barrier against which all socialism breaks into dust.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • Now that their hearts have been dust all these hundreds of years, what good is it to them that they denied themselves love?

    Michael and His Lost Angel Henry Arthur Jones
British Dictionary definitions for dust


dry fine powdery material, such as particles of dirt, earth or pollen
a cloud of such fine particles
the powdery particles to which something is thought to be reduced by death, decay, or disintegration
  1. the mortal body of man
  2. the corpse of a dead person
the earth; ground
(informal) a disturbance; fuss (esp in the phrases kick up a dust, raise a dust)
something of little or no worth
(informal) (in mining parlance) silicosis or any similar respiratory disease
short for gold dust
ashes or household refuse
bite the dust
  1. to fail completely or cease to exist
  2. to fall down dead
dust and ashes, something that is very disappointing
leave someone or something in the dust, to outdo someone or something comprehensively or with ease: leaving their competitors in the dust
shake the dust off one's feet, to depart angrily or contemptuously
throw dust in the eyes of, to confuse or mislead
(transitive) to sprinkle or cover (something) with (dust or some other powdery substance): to dust a cake with sugar, to dust sugar onto a cake
to remove dust by wiping, sweeping, or brushing
(archaic) to make or become dirty with dust
See also dust down, dust-up
Derived Forms
dustless, adjective
Word Origin
Old English dūst; related to Danish dyst flour dust, Middle Dutch dūst dust, meal dust, Old High German tunst storm
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for dust

Old English dust, from Proto-Germanic *dunstaz (cf. Old High German tunst "storm, breath," German Dunst "mist, vapor," Danish dyst "milldust," Dutch duist), from PIE *dheu- (1) "dust, smoke, vapor" (cf. Sanskrit dhu- "shake," Latin fumus "smoke"). Meaning "that to which living matter decays" was in Old English, hence, figuratively, "mortal life."


c.1200, "to rise as dust;" later "to sprinkle with dust" (1590s) and "to rid of dust" (1560s); from dust (n.). Related: Dusted; dusting. Sense of "to kill" is U.S. slang first recorded 1938 (cf. bite the dust under bite (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for dust



Narcotics in powder form (1960s+ Narcotics)


  1. To leave quickly; flee; fly: Dillinger used a Ford when dusting from a job (1850+)
  2. To hit; swat: dusted one of the lieutenants with an old shoe for trying to talk them back to work (1612+)
  3. (also, earlier, dust off) To kill: Watch me dust this bitch/ Don't suppose you just want to dust Esteva and go home (1970s+)
  4. To spray insecticide from a low-flying aircraft (1930s+)

Related Terms

angel dust, eat someone's dust, happy-dust, heaven dust

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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dust in the Bible

Storms of sand and dust sometimes overtake Eastern travellers. They are very dreadful, many perishing under them. Jehovah threatens to bring on the land of Israel, as a punishment for forsaking him, a rain of "powder and dust" (Deut. 28:24). To cast dust on the head was a sign of mourning (Josh. 7:6); and to sit in dust, of extreme affliction (Isa. 47:1). "Dust" is used to denote the grave (Job 7:21). "To shake off the dust from one's feet" against another is to renounce all future intercourse with him (Matt. 10:14; Acts 13:51). To "lick the dust" is a sign of abject submission (Ps. 72:9); and to throw dust at one is a sign of abhorrence (2 Sam. 16:13; comp. Acts 22:23).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with dust
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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