See more synonyms for powder on Thesaurus.com
  1. any solid substance reduced to a state of fine, loose particles by crushing, grinding, disintegration, etc.
  2. a preparation in this form, as gunpowder or face powder.
  3. Also powder snow. Skiing. loose, usually fresh snow that is not granular, wet, or packed.
verb (used with object)
  1. to reduce to powder; pulverize.
  2. to sprinkle or cover with powder: She powdered the cookies with confectioners' sugar.
  3. to apply powder to (the face, skin, etc.) as a cosmetic.
  4. to sprinkle or strew as if with powder: A light snowfall powdered the landscape.
  5. to ornament in this fashion, as with small objects scattered over a surface: a dress lightly powdered with sequins.
verb (used without object)
  1. to use powder as a cosmetic.
  2. to become pulverized.

Origin of powder

1250–1300; (noun) Middle English poudre < Old French < Latin pulver- (stem of pulvis) dust, powder; akin to pollen; (v.) Middle English poudren < Old French poudrer, derivative of poudre
Related formspow·der·er, noun


verb (used without object)
  1. British Dialect. to rush.
  1. British Dialect. a sudden, frantic, or impulsive rush.
  1. 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 powder

First recorded in 1625–35; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for powder

Contemporary Examples of powder

Historical Examples of powder

  • But, fast as you could move, Scottie, powder drives lead a lot faster.

  • You see, we left the shop in such a hurry we never thought about powder and ball.

  • We sunk many guns in the lake; and as for the powder, that had taken care of itself.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Ignoring his wild shouts they crunched to powder all his giant bones.

  • Does the white chief burn his powder in the faces of his brothers?

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for powder


  1. a solid substance in the form of tiny loose particles
  2. any of various preparations in this form, such as gunpowder, face powder, or soap powder
  3. fresh loose snow, esp when considered as skiing terrain
  4. take a powder US and Canadian slang to run away or disappear
  1. to turn into powder; pulverize
  2. (tr) to cover or sprinkle with or as if with powder
Derived Formspowderer, nounpowdery, adjective

Word Origin for powder

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

Word Origin and History for 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

powder in Medicine


  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.

Idioms and Phrases with powder


see keep one's powder dry; sitting on a powder keg; take a powder.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.