1846 US miners’ slang, from 1812 peter (“to become exhausted”). Various speculative etymologies have been suggested, either from St. Peter (from the sense of “rock”), French péter (“to fart”), or saltpeter (ingredient in gunpowder, hence used in mining).
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- (idiomatic) To dwindle; to trail off; to diminish to nothing.
- What started as a great effort ended up petering out to nothing.
- 2020 November 18, Paul Bigland, “New infrastructure and new rolling stock”, in Rail, 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.
- ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2022), “peter”, in Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved 26 February 2017.
- ^ Gary Martin (1997–), “Peter out”, in The Phrase Finder, retrieved 26 February 2017.
- ^ “ami: origin of “peter out””, in (please provide the title of the work), accessed 18 January 2010, archived from the original on 6 June 2010
- ^ Take Our Word For It #117
- ^ A Hog On Ice & Other Curious Expressions, Charles Funk, 1948.