salt·​pe·​ter ˈsȯlt-ˈpē-tər How to pronounce saltpeter (audio)

Examples of saltpeter in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Chinese alchemists, trying to make an elixir for immortality mixed together common kitchen seasonings at the time: saltpeter, charcoal and sulfur. Linda McIntosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 June 2023 For visitors who don’t like narrow passageways or are short on time, this DIY stroll through some of the park’s most famous limestone formations and passageways will take you past historic saltpeter mines, archeological sites, and the 19th-century tuberculosis ward. Emily Pennington, Outside Online, 29 July 2022 Industrial saltpeter cauldrons were hoisted on pedestals like ornaments. Margo Rabb, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Feb. 2023 At the time of its inception, the monks believed the most effective chemical formula to be one part sulfur, three parts charcoal and nine parts saltpeter. Marisa Sloan, Discover Magazine, 12 Oct. 2022 The layers of history at this site in the Fort Payne area include Cherokee inscriptions, Civil War saltpeter mining and use as a tourist attraction prior to 1979. al, 22 June 2022 The medieval gunpowder recipes were generally lower in saltpeter and higher in sulfur than modern ones. Eric Niiler, Wired, 29 Sep. 2021 The sulfur and carbon (typically in the form of charcoal) act as fuels whereas the saltpeter provides a rush of oxygen to ignite the extremely fast chemical reaction known as explosive combustion. The New York Times, Arkansas Online, 10 Oct. 2021 During the earlier part of the 14th century, gunpowder was the domain of alchemists who sourced their saltpeter and sulfur from traders arriving from China and India. Eric Niiler, Wired, 29 Sep. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'saltpeter.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English salt petre, alteration of salpetre, from Medieval Latin sal petrae, literally, salt of the rock

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of saltpeter was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near saltpeter

Cite this Entry

“Saltpeter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Medical Definition


variants or chiefly British saltpetre

More from Merriam-Webster on saltpeter

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