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noun Chiefly British.
  1. niter.


  1. potassium nitrate.
  2. sodium nitrate.
Also especially British, ni·tre.

Origin of niter

1375–1425; late Middle English nitre < Latin nitrum < Greek nítron natron
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for nitre

Historical Examples

  • An excellent diet drink may be made of toast and water, with the addition of a little vinegar, or a few grains of nitre.

  • What reagents are used to discover the presence of foreign substances in nitre?

    James Cutbush

    Edgar F. Smith

  • What are the nitre caves of the western country, and how is nitre extracted from the earth?

    James Cutbush

    Edgar F. Smith

  • What proportion of nitre does the saltpetre of the nitrate caves afford?

    James Cutbush

    Edgar F. Smith

  • Nitre, or "nitrate," is a native nitrate of potash, or nitrate of soda.

    Commercial Geography</p>

    Jacques W. Redway

British Dictionary definitions for nitre


US niter

  1. another name for potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate

Word Origin

C14: via Old French from Latin nitrum, from Greek nitron natron


  1. the usual US spelling of nitre
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

Word Origin and History for nitre


c.1400, "native sodium carbonate," from Old French nitre (13c.), from Latin nitrum, from Greek nitron, which is possibly of Eastern origin (cf. Hebrew nether "carbonate of soda;" Egyptian ntr). Originally a word for native soda, but also associated from Middle Ages with saltpeter (potassium nitrate) for obscure reasons; this became the predominant sense by late 16c.


see nitre.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

nitre in Science


  1. A naturally occurring mineral form of potassium nitrate. It is used to make gunpowder.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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