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saltpeter

[sawlt-pee-ter] /ˌsɔltˈpi tər/
noun
1.
the form of potassium nitrate, KNO 3 , that occurs naturally, used in the manufacture of fireworks, fluxes, gunpowder, etc.; niter.
Origin of saltpeter
1275-1325
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
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Word Origin and History for 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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saltpeter in Science
saltpeter
  (sôlt'pē'tər)   
See potassium nitrate.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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