- Rhymes: -iːtə(r)
US, 1902, presumably from shared initial pe-.
peter (plural peters)
1812, US miners’ slang, Unknown. Various speculative etymologies have been suggested. One suggestion is that it comes from peter being an abbreviation of saltpeter, the key ingredient in gunpowder – when a mine was exhausted, it was “petered”. Other derivations are from St. Peter (from sense of “rock”), or French péter (“to fart”).
- (most often used in the phrase peter out) To dwindle; to trail off; to diminish to nothing.
2014 August 23, Neil Hegarty, “Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin by Karl Whitney, review: 'a necessary corrective' [print version: Re-Joycing in Dublin, p. R25]”, The Daily Telegraph (Review):
- Whitney is absorbed especially by Dublin's unglamorous interstitial zones: the new housing estates and labyrinths of roads, watercourses and railways where the city peters into its commuter belt.
Originally used independently, today most often used in the derived phrase peter out.