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saltpeter

or salt·pe·tre

[sawlt-pee-ter]
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noun
  1. the form of potassium nitrate, KNO3, that occurs naturally, used in the manufacture of fireworks, fluxes, gunpowder, etc.; niter.
  2. Chile saltpeter.

Origin of saltpeter

1275–1325; earlier salt peter; replacing Middle English sal peter, salpetre < Medieval Latin salpetrē, for Latin sal petrae salt of rock, so called because it commonly encrusts stones
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for saltpeter

Historical Examples

  • They found a place where saltpeter was very thinly and erratically distributed.

    Space Prison

    Tom Godwin

  • Drain off the liquid the next day and add a pound of saltpeter to it.

  • In 1792, it was the Venetian Embassy, under the Terreur a saltpeter factory.

    Historic Paris

    Jetta S. Wolff

  • Dissolve the saltpeter in the vitriol and add it to the water.

  • Corned and smoked meats are usually preserved with saltpeter.


Word Origin and History for saltpeter

n.

"potassium nitrate," c.1500, earlier salpetre (early 14c.), from Old French salpetre, from Medieval Latin sal petrae "salt of rock," from Latin sal "salt" (see salt (n.)) + petra "rock, stone" (see petrous). So called because it looks like salt encrusted on rock.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

saltpeter in Science

saltpeter

[sôlttər]
  1. See potassium nitrate.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.