Definitions

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In the tobacco industry, a white saline efflorescence on the midvein and lateral ribs of the curing leaf, consisting usually of a mixture of several salts, sometimes with only a trace of saltpeter. It is thought to be developed by dry weather during the first stages of curing.
  • noun A salt called also niter and, in chemical nomenclature, potassium nitrate, or nitrate of potash. See niter.

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

  • noun (Chem.) Potassium nitrate; niter; a white crystalline substance, KNO3, having a cooling saline taste, obtained by leaching from certain soils in which it is produced by the process of nitrification (see nitrification, 2). It is a strong oxidizer, is the chief constituent of gunpowder, and is also used as an antiseptic in curing meat, and in medicine as a diuretic, diaphoretic, and refrigerant.
  • noun (Chem.) sodium nitrate (distinguished from potassium nitrate, or true salpeter), a white crystalline substance, NaNO3, having a cooling, saline, slightly bitter taste. It is obtained by leaching the soil of the rainless districts of Chili and Peru. It is deliquescent and cannot be used in gunpowder, but is employed in the production of nitric acid. Called also cubic niter.
  • noun (Chem.) nitric acid; -- sometimes so called because made from saltpeter.

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

  • noun US Alternative spelling of saltpetre.

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 salpetre, from Old French, from Medieval Latin sālpetrae : Latin sāl, salt; see sal- in Indo-European roots + Latin petrae, genitive of petra, rock (from Greek petrā; see per- in Indo-European roots).]

Examples

  • The American Heritage Dictionary says saltpeter is either potassium nitrate (used for curing meats) or sodium nitrate.

    Ceniza (ash) or tequesquite

  •   Refining the saltpeter was the current big problem, but I was hesitant about getting Arabian alchemists in on the project.

    Lord Conrads Crusade

  • If you see sausages in the meat counter that are bright red they have been treated with a preservative known as saltpeter, Westphalia, or nitrates.

    THE TANTE MARIE’S COOKING SCHOOL COOKBOOK

  • If you see sausages in the meat counter that are bright red they have been treated with a preservative known as saltpeter, Westphalia, or nitrates.

    THE TANTE MARIE’S COOKING SCHOOL COOKBOOK

  • If you see sausages in the meat counter that are bright red they have been treated with a preservative known as saltpeter, Westphalia, or nitrates.

    THE TANTE MARIE’S COOKING SCHOOL COOKBOOK

  • Nitrogen also occurs in nature in the form of potassium nitrate (KNO_ {3}) -- commonly called saltpeter or niter -- as well as in sodium nitrate (NaNO_ {3}).

    An Elementary Study of Chemistry

  • Lull called soda nitrum, and he called saltpeter sal nitri.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol 1 No 3

  • All the recipes I saw called for saltpeter, which is impossible to find because it’s also used to make explosives (and I did not know this so that might explain all the strange looks I got from shopkeepers when I asked if they stocked it).

    Archive 2008-12-01

  • All the recipes I saw called for saltpeter, which is impossible to find because it’s also used to make explosives (and I did not know this so that might explain all the strange looks I got from shopkeepers when I asked if they stocked it).

    Black-eyed pea dip for a new year | Homesick Texan

  • On the second day diuretics may be resorted to, such as saltpeter one-half ounce, and powdered colchicum, one-half dram, to be repeated twice daily.

    Special Report on Diseases of the Horse

Comments

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  • Salt 'n' pepper, together at last!

    June 2, 2008

  • Also spelled saltpetre.

    October 14, 2008