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[pee-ter] /ˈpi tər/
verb (used without object), peter out
to diminish gradually and stop; dwindle to nothing:
The hot water always peters out in the middle of my shower.
to tire; exhaust (usually used as a past participle):
I'm petered out after that walk.
Origin of peter1
1805-15, in sense “put an end to”; 1860-65 for def 1; origin uncertain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for petering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • During the second mile it was plain to all that Noddy was petering out.

    The Motor Boys Clarence Young
  • It's petering out in bed from sickness or old age that's so horrifying.

    The Glory of the Trenches Coningsby Dawson
  • The ball did not rebound as it used to; the resilience was petering out.

    The Drums Of Jeopardy Harold MacGrath
  • The trail the cattle had made kept dividing and petering out, and we had to pick the one that the burros took.

    Pluck on the Long Trail

    Edwin L. Sabin
  • Altogether, Sandy considered the petering out of the Molly Mine far from being a disaster.

    Rimrock Trail J. Allan Dunn
British Dictionary definitions for petering


(intransitive; foll by out or away) to fall (off) in volume, intensity, etc, and finally cease: the cash petered out in three months
Word Origin
C19: of unknown origin


verb (intransitive)
to play a high card before a low one in a suit, usually a conventional signal of a doubleton holding or of strength in that suit
the act of petering
Word Origin
C20: perhaps a special use of peter1 (to fall off in power)


noun (slang)
a safe, till, or cash box
a prison cell
the witness box in a courtroom
(mainly US) a slang word for penis
Word Origin
C17 (meaning a case): from the name Peter


noun (New Testament)
Saint. Also called: Simon Peter. died ?67 ad, a fisherman of Bethsaida, who became leader of the apostles and is regarded by Roman Catholics as the first pope; probably martyred at Rome. Feast day: June 29 or Jan 18
either of two epistles traditionally ascribed to Peter (in full The First Epistle and The Second Epistle of Peter)
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 petering


masc. proper name, 12c., from Old English Petrus (genitive Pet(e)res, dative Pet(e)re), from Latin Petrus, from Greek Petros, literally "stone, rock," translation of Syriac kefa "stone" (Latinized as Cephas), nickname Jesus gave to apostle Simon Bar-Jona (Matt. xvi:17), historically known as St. Peter, and consequently a popular name among Christians (e.g. Italian Pietro, Spanish and Portuguese Pedro, Old French Pierres, French Pierre, etc.). Slang for "penis" is attested from 1902, probably from identity of first syllable.

The common form of this very common name in medieval England was Peres (Anglo-French Piers), hence surnames Pierce, Pearson, etc. Among the diminutive forms were Parkin and Perkin. To rob Peter to pay Paul (1510s, also in early 17c. French as descouvrir S. Pierre pour couvrir S. Pol) might be a reference to the many churches dedicated to those two saints, and have sprung from the fairly common practice of building or enriching one church with the ruins or revenues of another. But the alliterative pairing of the two names is attested from c.1400 with no obvious connection to the saints:

Sum medicyne is for peter þat is not good for poul, for þe diuersite of complexioun. [Lanfranc's "Chirurgia Magna," English translation]



"cease, stop," 1812, of uncertain origin. To peter out "become exhausted," is 1846 as miners' slang. Related: Petered; petering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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petering in Culture

Peter definition

Chief among the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, he was a fisherman, originally named Simon (and often called Simon Peter). Jesus gave him the name Rock, of which “Peter” is a translation. Peter showed great faith but also exhibited great failings (see Get thee behind me, Satan). In the frightening hours before the Crucifixion, Peter three times denied being a follower of Jesus, just as Jesus had predicted he would. Nevertheless, Peter went on to become the leader of the early Christians (see Pentecost), thus fulfilling another prophecy of Jesus, who had said of Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church.... And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

Note: Peter is often depicted holding keys. Roman Catholics maintain a number of traditions about Peter: that he was the first of the popes, for example, and that he was martyred at Rome by being crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified as Jesus had been.
Note: The great church of the Vatican, Saint Peter's Basilica, was later built on what was believed to be the site of his burial.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for petering

peter 1


A safe; strongbox; vault

[1859+ Underworld; origin unknown]

peter 2


The penis

[1902+; fr the association with pee, ''urine'']

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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