Definitions

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The word niter (in its Hebrew, Greek, and Latin forms) was used in early times to signify any kind of saline efflorescence, and therefore included a number of substances now recognized as distinct. The ‘niter’ of the Old Testament scriptures was obviously natron in the sense of naturally occurring carbonate of soda (from Egypt). The ‘nitrum’ mentioned by Pliny, which gave off a strong smell on being sprinkled with lime, must have been a salt of ammonium, probably the chlorid; but potassium nitrate (the niter or saltpeter of the present age), and also calcium nitrate, potassium carbonate, sodium chlorid, magnesium sulphate, and the sulphates of zinc, iron, and copper (later distinguished as metallic vitriols) were probably more or less confounded under the general name.
  • noun A salt (KNO3), also called saltpeter, and in the nomenclature of chemistry potassium nitrate.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Chem.) A white crystalline semitransparent salt; potassium nitrate; saltpeter. See saltpeter.
  • noun (Chem.), obsolete Native sodium carbonate; natron.
  • noun a deliquescent salt, sodium nitrate, found as a native incrustation, like niter, in Peru and Chile, whence it is known also as Chile saltpeter.
  • noun (Bot.) a genus (Nitraria) of thorny shrubs bearing edible berries, and growing in the saline plains of Asia and Northern Africa.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun US, chemistry A mineral form of potassium nitrate used in making gunpowder.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun (KNO3) used especially as a fertilizer and explosive

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English nitre, sodium carbonate, natron, from Old French, from Latin nitrum, from Greek nitron, from Egyptian nṯr.]

Examples

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  • Usage on mastick.

    October 6, 2008