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

  • noun One who carries or sets explosives.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A boy employed on ships to carry powder from the magazine to the guns.

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

  • noun informal An explosives expert. A person who sets explosives.
  • noun nautical The persons employed to carry gun powder from the ship's magazine to the gun deck during a battle; in the 18th century Royal British and U. S. Navies, this task (also carrying water) during battles became a permanent nickname for the ship's cabin boys and apprentice seamen.
  • noun skiing, snowboarding, informal A skier or snowboarder who avidly seeks out the “powder” (light, dry, fluffy snow).

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

  • noun someone who carries explosives (as from the magazine to the guns on board a warship)


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  • Originally, and chiefly nautical, a boy employed to carry gunpowder from the powder magazine to the guns, esp. on board a warship. Also figurative. Now historical.


    1774 D. HENRY Hist. Acct. Voy. Eng. Navigators II. 406 "One of the lads, called powder-monkies, being heedless, a cartridge that he was carrying blew up in his hands."

    1798 LADY HAMILTON Letter to Admiral Nelson, 8 Sept., "I would have been rather an English powder-monkey or a swab in that great victory than an emperor out of it."

    February 14, 2007

  • US Navy Image ca 1864:

    July 14, 2013