Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To dwindle; to tail off; to diminish to nothing.

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

  • v. use up all one's strength and energy and stop working
  • v. end weakly

Etymologies

1846 US miners’ slang, from 1812 peter ("to become exhausted"). Various speculative etymologies have been suggested, either from St. Peter (from sense of “rock”), French péter ("to fart"), or saltpeter (ingredient in gunpowder, hence used in mining).[2][3][4][5] (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • When the Luftwaffe's main daylight assault against Great Britain failed and raids began to peter out as Goring no longer cared to risk what was left of his forces, fighter pilots all over the country, hissing their favorite Huns, began asking for permission to use their Hurricanes for some - thing they had never attempted before.

    The HurricaneStory

  • Carefully he let Brian Kwok peter out and then he said casually, "Who's Joe?

    Noble House

  • She breathed surreptitiously on the window of the car and drew two circles with her finger; but they hardly intersected at all -- a mere moonlight infatuation which would soon peter out -- so she added ears and whiskers and turned them into Siamese-twin cats.

    Mrs. Miniver

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