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See also: Peter, péter, and Péter



Etymology 1[edit]

US, 1902, presumably from shared initial pe-.[1] Compare the use of other men’s names as a slang term for the penis, e.g., dick, willy, John Thomas, etc.


peter (plural peters)

  1. (slang) The penis.
    • 1997: Shelby Scates, Warren G. Magnuson and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century America [1]
      You smile, act polite, shake their hands, then cut off their peters and put them in your pocket.” “Yes, Mr. President,” answered O'Brien.
    • 1998: Michael Robert Gorman, The Empress Is a Man: Stories from the Life of Jose Sarria [2]
      ... and you were there, and they acted like you weren't even born yet?' "I'd say, 'Yes, their memories are as long as their peters.'"
    • 2002: Celia H Miles, Mattie's Girl: An Appalachian Childhood [3]
      “It's to put on their peters when they don't want to make babies,” she said.
  2. (Britain, slang) A safe.

Etymology 2[edit]

1812, US miners’ slang, Unknown.[1] Various speculative etymologies have been suggested.[2][3][4][5] 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).


peter (third-person singular simple present peters, present participle petering, simple past and past participle petered)

  1. (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]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review)[4]:
      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.
Usage notes[edit]

Originally used independently, today most often used in the derived phrase peter out.

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 peter” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.
  2. ^ Peter out” in Gary Martin, The Phrase Finder, 1997–, retrieved 26 February 2017.
  3. ^ ami: origin of “peter out”
  4. ^ Take Our Word For It #117
  5. ^ A Hog On Ice & Other Curious Expressions, Charles Funk, 1948.