• synonyms


or salt·pe·tre

  1. the form of potassium nitrate, KNO3, that occurs naturally, used in the manufacture of fireworks, fluxes, gunpowder, etc.; niter.
  2. Chile saltpeter.
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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

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Historical Examples of saltpetre

British Dictionary definitions for saltpetre


US saltpeter

  1. another name for potassium nitrate
  2. short for Chile saltpetre
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Word Origin for saltpetre

C16: from Old French salpetre, from Latin sal petrae salt of rock
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 saltpetre


chiefly British English spelling of saltpeter (q.v.); for ending, see -re.

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"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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

saltpetre in Science


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