an explosive mixture, as of potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal, used in shells and cartridges, in fireworks, for blasting, etc.
Also called gunpowder tea. a fine variety of green China tea, each leaf of which is rolled into a little ball.

Origin of gunpowder

late Middle English word dating back to 1375–1425; see origin at gun1, powder1
Related formsgun·pow·der·y, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gunpowder

Contemporary Examples of gunpowder

Historical Examples of gunpowder

  • There was also a large supply of gunpowder, ball, and shot, and coal and wood in abundance.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • Don't touch the gunpowder till you're told, or you'll get your head smacked.

    The Golden Age

    Kenneth Grahame

  • There you see a heap of gunpowder in the centre of our large flame.

    The Story of a Tinder-box

    Charles Meymott Tidy

  • As well put a match to a gunpowder barrel to warm your fingers.

  • The flash of a pinch of gunpowder in your face may be a bigger matter.

    The Arrow of Gold

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for gunpowder



an explosive mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulphur (typical proportions are 75:15:10): used in time fuses, blasting, and fireworksAlso called: black powder
Derived Formsgunpowdery, adjective
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 gunpowder

early 15c., from gun (n.) + powder (n.). The Gunpowder Plot was the conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament on Nov. 5, 1605, while the King, Lords and Commons were assembled there.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper