dust

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a fine powder made of particles, e.g. dry dirt or sand

Astronomy

  • Dusty material is common throughout the observable universe. It is present in our immediate astronomical area, accounting for much of the mass of comets and producing meteor showers. On a larger scale are dust clouds in galaxies with masses many hundreds of times that of the Sun, either dark, or glowing from stellar radiation. Dusty areas of galaxies also seem to be the seats of star and planet formation, so that dusty material may be the original form of most of the matter around us.

Aviation

  • noun a fine powdery substance blown by the wind and found on surfaces

Food

  • verb to sprinkle a powdery substance over something, e.g. sugar over a cake

Military

  • noun fine particles of sand, soil or any other material

Slang

  • noun angel dust, P.C.P. Among young people the shortened form was considered cooler than the full phrase in the late 1980s
  • verb to kill. A ‘tough-guy’ euphemism implying the casual elimination of nuisances, typically in a gangland or military context. The origin is probably in a now-obsolete use of dust, meaning to ‘hit’, which survives in the expression ‘dust-up’.

Origin & History of “dust”

The notion ultimately underlying dust seems to be that of ‘smoke’ or ‘vapour’. It goes back to a prehistoric Indo-European base *dheu-, which also produced Latin fūmus and Sanskrit dhūma- ‘smoke’. A Germanic descendant of this, *dunstu-, picks up the idea of a cloud of fine particles being blown about like smoke, and is the basis of Norwegian dust ‘dust’ and duft ‘finely ground grain’, German duft ‘fragrance’ (from an earlier middle high German tuft ‘vapour, dew’), and English dust.
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