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saltpeter (n.)

"potassium nitrate," c. 1500, earlier salpetre (early 14c.), from Old French salpetre, from Medieval Latin sal petrae "salt of rock," from Latin sal "salt" (from PIE root *sal- "salt") + petra "rock, stone" (see petrous). So called because it looks like salt encrusted on rock.

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Definitions of saltpeter from WordNet

saltpeter (n.)
(KNO3) used especially as a fertilizer and explosive;
Synonyms: potassium nitrate / saltpetre / niter / nitre
From wordnet.princeton.edu