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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.
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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

Examples from the Web for saltpetre

Historical Examples


British Dictionary definitions for saltpetre

saltpetre

US saltpeter

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

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

n.

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

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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

saltpetre in Science

saltpeter

[sôlttər]
  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.