Definitions

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

  • n. A white, gray, or colorless mineral of potassium nitrate, KNO3, used in making gunpowder. Also called saltpeter.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A mineral form of potassium nitrate used in making gunpowder.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A white crystalline semitransparent salt; potassium nitrate; saltpeter. See saltpeter.
  • n. Native sodium carbonate; natron.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A salt (KNO3), also called saltpeter, and in the nomenclature of chemistry potassium nitrate.
  • n. 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.

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

  • n. (KNO3) used especially as a fertilizer and explosive

Etymologies

Middle English nitre, sodium carbonate, natron, from Old French, from Latin nitrum, from Greek nitron, from Egyptian nṯr.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • There's a stuff called sweet spirits of niter, which is, I think, used in kidney ailments.

    Oral History Interview with Jonathan Worth Daniels, March 9-11, 1977. Interview A-0313. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)

  • Meanwhile, Lincoln conducted the bloodiest war in U.S. history to preserve the Union, authorized the deployment of deadly new weaponry such as mines, ironclad warships and niter a 19th-century version of napalm, and accepted huge casualties for his chosen cause.

    Five myths about Abraham Lincoln

  • I returned the wig because because of the TMI exposition slam Gawker ran about a one-niter O'Donnell had two years ago.

    Susanna Speier: Mid Term Election Anxiety & Halloween Politiku

  • Back during the campaign of 2000 ( "Ahma YOU-niter, notta DEE-vider") Don Imus told his listeners one morning:

    Georgie in La La Land

  • Fenugreek, berbere, and niter kibbeh to satisfy the spice-loving community of Ethiopians that that moved into the neighborhood in the last several years.

    June 2007

  • This suggests that, while testing new glass formulas for different uses, he was also creating a personal program to study affinities of acids of sea salt, niter, and vitriol.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • To make coloring particles — principally metallic oxides — into the vitreous coloring materials for needed ceramics and enamels, the particles were ground with a flux, a combination of glass, sand, lead, and salts such as borax, niter, and sal gem (sodium chloride).

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • This caused the liquid to harden and, according to Peckitt, it also extracted harmful salts. reference The zaffer-niter compound was dried and powdered: a quantity of this mixture was added to a crucible (“pot”) of molten glass to create the desired blue color. reference

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • Cyrus Harding still needed, in view of his future preparation, another substance, nitrate of potash, which is better known under the name of salt niter, or of saltpeter.

    The Mysterious Island

  • But most of all is the motion of flight conspicuous in niter and such like crude bodies, which abhor flame; as in gunpowder, quicksilver, and gold.

    The New Organon

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