peter out

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1846 US miners’ slang, from 1812 peter(to become exhausted).[1] Various speculative etymologies have been suggested, either from St. Peter (from sense of “rock”), French péter(to fart), or saltpeter (ingredient in gunpowder, hence used in mining).[2][3][4][5]


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

  1. (idiomatic) To dwindle; to tail off; to diminish to nothing.
    What started as a great effort ended up petering out to nothing.



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