take a powder


2 [pou-der]
verb (used without object)
British Dialect. to rush.
British Dialect. a sudden, frantic, or impulsive rush.
take a powder, Slang. to leave in a hurry; depart without taking leave, as to avoid something unpleasant: He took a powder and left his mother to worry about his gambling debts. Also, take a runout powder.

1625–35; origin uncertain

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World English Dictionary
powder (ˈpaʊdə)
1.  a solid substance in the form of tiny loose particles
2.  any of various preparations in this form, such as gunpowder, face powder, or soap powder
3.  fresh loose snow, esp when considered as skiing terrain
4.  slang (US), (Canadian) take a powder to run away or disappear
5.  to turn into powder; pulverize
6.  (tr) to cover or sprinkle with or as if with powder
[C13: from Old French poldre, from Latin pulvis dust]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

late 13c., from O.Fr. poudre (13c.), earlier pouldre (11c.), from L. pulverem (nom. pulvis) "dust" (see pollen). In the sense "powdered cosmetic," it is recorded from 1570s. In figurative sense, powder keg is first attested 1855. Powder room, euphemistic for "women's lavatory,"
is attested from 1941. Powder puff first recorded 1704; as a symbol of femaleness or effeminacy, in use from at least 1930s. Phrase take a powder "scram, vanish," is from 1920, perhaps from the notion of taking a laxative medicine, so one has to leave in a hurry; or from a magician's magical powder, which made things disappear.

c.1300, from O.Fr. poudrer, from poudre (see powder (n.))
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

powder pow·der (pou'dər)

  1. A dry mass of pulverized or finely dispersed solid particles.

  2. Any of various medicinal or cosmetic preparations in the form of powder.

  3. A single dose of a powdered drug.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

take a powder definition

To make a quick departure: “When he saw the police coming, the thief decided to take a powder.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

take a powder

Make a speedy departure, run away, as in I looked around and he was gonehe'd taken a powder. This slangy idiom may be derived from the British dialect sense of powder as "a sudden hurry," a usage dating from about 1600. It may also allude to the explosive quality of gunpowder.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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