the form of potassium nitrate, KNO 3 , that occurs naturally, used in the manufacture of fireworks, fluxes, gunpowder, etc.; niter.
Also, saltpetre.

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. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
saltpetre or (US) saltpeter (ˌsɔːltˈpiːtə)
1.  another name for potassium nitrate
2.  short for Chile saltpetre
[C16: from Old French salpetre, from Latin sal petrae salt of rock]
saltpeter or (US) saltpeter
[C16: from Old French salpetre, from Latin sal petrae salt of rock]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"potassium nitrate," c.1500, earlier salpetre (early 14c.), from O.Fr. salpetre, from M.L. sal petrae "salt of rock," from L. sal "salt" (see salt) + petra "rock, stone." So called because it looks like salt encrusted on rock.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
saltpeter   (sôlt'pē'tər)  Pronunciation Key 
See potassium nitrate.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
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.
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