Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A substance consisting of ground, pulverized, or otherwise finely dispersed solid particles.
  • noun Any of various preparations in the form of powder, as certain cosmetics and medicines.
  • noun A dry explosive mixture, such as gunpowder.
  • noun Light dry snow.
  • transitive verb To turn into or produce as a powder.
  • transitive verb To put powder on.
  • transitive verb To strew or ornament with small objects or flecks.
  • idiom (keep (one's) powder dry) To be ready for a challenge with little warning.
  • idiom (take a powder) To make a quick departure; run away.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To reduce to powder; pulverize; triturate; pound, grind, or rub to fine particles.
  • To sprinkle with powder, dust, ashes, etc.; specifically, to put powder upon: as, to powder the hair or the face.
  • To sprinkle with salt, spices, or other seasoning; hence, to corn; pickle.
  • To sprinkle as with powder; stud; ornament with a small pattern, continually repeated.
  • To whiten by some application of white material in the form of a powder: thus, lace which has grown yellow is powdered by being placed in a packet of white lead and beaten.
  • To scatter; place here and there as if sprinkled like powder: as, to powder violets on a silk ground.
  • To fall to dust; be reduced to powder.
  • To apply powder to the hair or face; use powder in the toilet.
  • To attack violently; make a great stir.
  • noun Fine, minute, loose, uncompacted particles, such as result from pounding or grinding a solid substance; dust.
  • noun A preparation or composition, in the form of dust or minute loose particles, applied in various ways, as in the toilet, etc.: as, hair-powder; face-powder.
  • noun A composition of saltpeter, sulphur, and charcoal, mixed and granulated: more particularly designated gunpowder (which see).
  • noun Seasoning, either of salt or of spices.
  • noun A medical remedy, or a dose of some medical remedy, in the form of powder, or minute loose or uncompacted particles: as, he has to take three powders every hour.

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

  • intransitive verb To be reduced to powder; to become like powder.
  • intransitive verb To use powder on the hair or skin.
  • noun The fine particles to which any dry substance is reduced by pounding, grinding, or triturating, or into which it falls by decay; dust.
  • noun An explosive mixture used in gunnery, blasting, etc.; gunpowder. See Gunpowder.
  • noun etc. See under Atlas, Baking, etc.
  • noun (Zoöl.) the peculiar dust, or exfoliation, of powder-down feathers.
  • noun (Zoöl.) one of a peculiar kind of modified feathers which sometimes form patches on certain parts of some birds. They have a greasy texture and a scaly exfoliation.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a tuft or patch of powder-down feathers.
  • noun a tube of strong linen, about an inch in diameter, filled with powder and used in firing mines.
  • noun (Naut.) a vessel specially fitted to carry powder for the supply of war ships. They are usually painted red and carry a red flag.
  • noun See Magazine, 2.
  • noun a mine exploded by gunpowder. See Mine.
  • noun (Naut.) a boy formerly employed on war vessels to carry powder; a powder boy.
  • noun See Dry rot, under Dry.
  • noun See Puff, n.
  • transitive verb To reduce to fine particles; to pound, grind, or rub into a powder; to comminute; to pulverize; to triturate.
  • transitive verb To sprinkle with powder, or as with powder; to be sprinkle.
  • transitive verb obsolete To sprinkle with salt; to corn, as meat.

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

  • noun The fine particles to which any dry substance is reduced by pounding, grinding, or triturating, or into which it falls by decay; dust.
  • noun An explosive mixture used in gunnery, blasting, etc.; gunpowder.
  • noun informal Light, dry, fluffy snow.
  • verb transitive To reduce to fine particles.
  • verb transitive To sprinkle with powder, or as with powder.
  • verb intransitive To be reduced to powder; to become like powder.
  • verb intransitive To use powder on the hair or skin.

Etymologies

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

[Middle English poudre, from Old French, from Latin pulvis, pulver-.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English poudre, pouldre, Old French poudre, poldre, puldre, Latin pulvis ("dust, powder"). compare pollen fine flour, mill dust, E. pollen. Compare polverine, pulverize.

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Examples

  • Chlorinated lime powder, bleaching powder+/- 25% active chlorine

    Chapter 4

  • Just the other day my parents were researching tools and came on the term powder-actuated, and I was transported back to that hardware store.

    Cultural Learnings

  • "And soon," said Abby Foxwell, "for I don't know what we'll do a whole day without water, and our powder is about gone."

    Chapter 13

  • They are like a regular chocolate chip cookie except that cocoa powder is added to make the dough chocolately brown.

    Archive 2006-11-01

  • They are like a regular chocolate chip cookie except that cocoa powder is added to make the dough chocolately brown.

    Double Chocolate Dream Cookies

  • "And soon," said Abby Foxwell, "for I don't know what we'll do a whole day without water, and our powder is about gone."

    Chapter 13

  • According to a Pink Tentacle post linking to a FujiSankei Business i. article in Japanese, the RFID "powder" is expected to be available in the next two to three years.

    Boing Boing

  • Then added strawberry flavored protein powder and blended again.

    Blending a Mango...

  • He talked to Ned Cruz, the owner of the Chile Store, who sold chiles year-round as paste and in powder form, dried, fresh, and frozen.

    Alba

  • The glass of Taak with jeera powder is to wash down the hearty meal.

    A Rustic Spread

Comments

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  • Powder: Try running out into a grassy field on a stormy day, yelling this at the top of your lungs.

    December 10, 2006

  • In the context of my work, this usually means gunpowder. Great word though. I love the saying "take a powder."

    February 13, 2007

  • Or "keep your powder dry."

    February 13, 2007

  • Well, "keep your powder dry" makes sense to me, particularly (as I said) in the context of work. But "take a powder"--that's just plain weird!

    February 13, 2007

  • Think this word is cool? So do I. See?

    March 5, 2007

  • I read somewhere that "take a powder" is thought to come from a use of the word powder as "a sudden or frantic rush." Have you seen that anywhere, Powder Bear?

    March 5, 2007

  • No, I haven't. I'll try to remember to look it up in the OED when I have a chance. Interesting...

    March 6, 2007

  • c_b, can you change your name to powder_bear?

    March 6, 2007

  • Captured at Yorktown, "70 barrels powder," meaning gunpowder, in addition to all the other loot. (Salem, Mass. Gazette, November 15, 1781)

    October 29, 2007

  • "take a powder"--that's just plain weird!

    Weren't most medicines originally powders before they were - ie. in modern times - tablets, capsules, etc.?

    November 21, 2007

  • Bilby: BC Powder is still a widely available pain remedy in the South. You open the little envelope, pour the powder into water, and drink it down. I suppose it's little more than crushed aspirin, but it has a certain cachet among Southerners, for some reason.

    Your comment got me to thinking about BC, so I did a quick Google search. The story of BC Powder is here if you're interested. The user testimonials under The Faces of BC are priceless...

    November 21, 2007

  • I remember doing some interpreting work for a doctor who in turn had spent a lot of time in India. He told me, "You can prescribe pills for Indians, but there's no point. They'll just take them home and grind them into powders anyway."

    November 21, 2007

  • That's hilarious skipvia. I really liked this one: "We’ve been friends since 1978, and we’ve been through a whole lot of BC’s together."

    November 21, 2007

  • There's another discussion about "take a powder" (I think) on my list Powder Fun. At least I remember it that way (though haven't looked lately) because I'd never heard it before.

    Also, skipvia, I noticed the customer loyalty of BC Powder, but I also heard of lots of people who don't even put it in water--they just sprinkle it into their mouths. This grosses me out.

    November 21, 2007

  • There do appear to be certain well-defined national preferences about the way to take one's medicine. For instance, Germans have a fondness for intranasal administration, that is, they like to snort their drugs. The French, in contrast, have a certain penchant for suppositories.

    Somehow this knowledge makes one view the Franco-Prussian war in an entirely new light.

    November 21, 2007

  • Now, sionnach--let's not cast aspersions about one's orificial preferences.

    November 21, 2007

  • Yikes.

    C_b, I know a few people who take BC Powder that way. Eeew.

    November 21, 2007

  • I recently discovered Gold Bond Medicated Foot Powder. I was fully prepared for disgust, but actually it's quite mentholly. Makes your feet all cold and tingly, and nice-smelling. I can't wait to cover my feet in it again tonight.

    Have I shared too much?

    November 21, 2007

  • Ummm, you can stop there, U.

    November 21, 2007

  • Sir yes sir!

    November 21, 2007

  • Sionnach, it's not fair that you keep posting the Best Comments Ever. :) And this is going on my Conversations list...

    November 21, 2007