Old English dust, from Proto-Germanic *dunstaz (source also of Old High German tunst "storm, breath," German Dunst "mist, vapor," Danish dyst "milldust," Dutch duist), from PIE *dheu- (1) "dust, smoke, vapor" (source also of Sanskrit dhu- "shake," Latin fumus "smoke"). Meaning "that to which living matter decays" was in Old English, hence, figuratively, "mortal life."
c. 1200, "to rise as dust;" later "to sprinkle with dust" (1590s) and "to rid of dust" (1560s); from dust (n.). Related: Dusted; dusting. Sense of "to kill" is U.S. slang first recorded 1938 (compare bite the dust under dust (n.)).
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