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[sawlt-pee-ter] /ˌsɔltˈpi tər/
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; 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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for saltpeter
  • He had got the recipe from a library book, using saltpeter and sugar.
  • See evidence of saltpeter production an underground hospital and prehistoric mineral mining.
  • The artifacts are remarkably well preserved in the dry cave and represent the state's best-preserved saltpeter mining artifacts.
  • Sulphur and saltpeter could be used to make gun powder and brick clay.
British Dictionary definitions for saltpeter


another name for potassium nitrate
short for Chile saltpetre
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
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Word Origin and History for saltpeter

"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
See potassium nitrate.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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