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[pou-der] /ˈpaʊ dər/
verb (used without object)
British Dialect. to rush.
British Dialect. a sudden, frantic, or impulsive rush.
take a powder, Slang. to leave in a hurry; depart without taking leave, as to avoid something unpleasant:
He took a powder and left his mother to worry about his gambling debts.
Also, take a runout powder.
Origin of powder2
First recorded in 1625-35; origin uncertain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for take a powder


a solid substance in the form of tiny loose particles
any of various preparations in this form, such as gunpowder, face powder, or soap powder
fresh loose snow, esp when considered as skiing terrain
(US & Canadian, slang) take a powder, to run away or disappear
to turn into powder; pulverize
(transitive) to cover or sprinkle with or as if with powder
Derived Forms
powderer, noun
powdery, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French poldre, from Latin pulvis dust
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 take a powder



c.1300, "ash, cinders; dust of the earth;" early 14c., "pulverized substance;" mid-14c., "medicinal powder;" late 14c. as "gunpowder," from Old French poudre "dust, powder; ashes; powdered substance" (13c.), earlier pouldre (11c.), from Latin pulverem (nominative pulvis) "dust" (see pollen). Specialized sense "gunpowder" is from late 14c. In the sense "powdered cosmetic," it is recorded from 1570s.

In figurative sense, powder keg is first attested 1855. Powder room, euphemistic for "women's lavatory," is attested from 1936. Earlier it meant "place where gunpowder is stored on a warship" (1620s). Powder horn attested by 1530s. Powder puff first recorded 1704; as a symbol of femaleness or effeminacy, in use from at least 1930s.

Phrase take a powder "scram, vanish," is from 1920; it was a common phrase as a doctor's instruction, so perhaps from the notion of taking a laxative medicine or a sleeping powder, with the result that one has to leave in a hurry (or, on another guess, from a magician's magical powder, which made things disappear). Powder blue (1650s) was smelt used in laundering; as a color name from 1894.



c.1300, "to put powder on;" late 14c., "to make into powder," from Old French poudrer "to pound, crush to powder; strew, scatter," from poudre (see powder (n.)). Related: Powdered; powdering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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take a powder in Medicine

powder pow·der (pou'dər)

  1. A dry mass of pulverized or finely dispersed solid particles.

  2. Any of various medicinal or cosmetic preparations in the form of powder.

  3. A single dose of a powdered drug.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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take a powder in Culture

take a powder definition

To make a quick departure: “When he saw the police coming, the thief decided to take a powder.”

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 take a powder

take a powder

verb phrase

To leave; depart hastily, esp to avoid arrest or detection; powder: and take a powder out of here that day/ that goddamned Matthews, who took a powder to Florida

[1930s+; fr the magical powder of a magician or sorcerer, capable of making a person disappear or change form, a use found by 1688]



  1. : Bonnie murdered a constable during the powder
  2. The speed of a pitch, esp very high speed; stuff (1932+ Baseball)


  1. To leave; depart hastily, esp in escaping: We better powder (1920+ Underworld)
  2. To hit very hard; pulverize: after he had powdered the second pitch (1940s+ Baseball)

Related Terms

flea powder, foolish powder, joy-powder, runout powder, take a powder

[sense of running away probably fr similar dust fr the notion of raising dust as one runs; perhaps, in view of take a powder and run-out powder, the asi notion is reinforced by that of taking a medicinal powder, esp a laxative, so that one has to leave in a hurry, or perhaps a magical powder that would cause one to disappear]

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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Idioms and Phrases with take a powder

take a powder

Make a speedy departure, run away, as in I looked around and he was gone—he'd taken a powder. This slangy idiom may be derived from the British dialect sense of powder as “a sudden hurry,” a usage dating from about 1600. It may also allude to the explosive quality of gunpowder.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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