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From peter (“of a vein of ore: to be depleted of ore; to diminish to nothing”) + out. The etymology of peter is unknown; the following have been suggested:
- From peter (“to stop doing or saying something”).
- Since the word was first used in mining contexts, either:
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˌpiːtɚ‿ˈaʊt/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˌpitɚ‿ˈaʊt/, [-ɾɚ-]
Audio (AU) (file)
- Rhymes: -aʊt
- Hyphenation: pe‧ter out
peter out (third-person singular simple present peters out, present participle petering out, simple past and past participle petered out)
- (intransitive, originally US) Synonym of peter (“originally (mining), of a vein of ore: to be depleted of ore; now (generally), to diminish to nothing; to dwindle, to trail off”)
- Synonym: spin down
- What started as a great effort ended up petering out to nothing.
- 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson, “With the Children of Israel. I. To Introduce Mr. Kelmar.”, in The Silverado Squatters, London: Chatto and Windus, […], →OCLC, page 60:
- But the luck had failed, the mines petered out; and the army of miners had departed, and left this quarter of the world to the rattlesnakes and deer and grizzlies, and to the slower but steadier advance of husbandry.
- 2020 November 18, Paul Bigland, “New Infrastructure and New Rolling Stock”, in Rail, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire: Bauer Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 49:
- Soon, the overhead wires will reach here. My only hope is that common sense prevails, and that the overhead line equipment continues its march north rather than petering out, leaving a monument to short-term thinking and a lack of vision.
to diminish to nothing — See also translations at dwindle
- ^ “peter, v.1”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 “peter, v.2”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022; “peter1, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
- ^ “† salpetre, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2022.
- “peter out”, in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present, reproduced from Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2003, →ISBN.
- Gary Martin (1997–), “Peter out”, in The Phrase Finder.
- English terms derived from Proto-Indo-European
- English terms derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *pesd-
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