Take a powder

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Take a powder is an idiom that became popular during the 1920s. We will examine the meaning of the idiom take a powder, where it may have from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To take a powder means to leave abruptly, to disappear, to hide out, to avoid contact with others. The term take a powder was popular in the 1920s and is attributed to American gangster culture. Whether the idiom became popular because of gangster culture or because of its depiction in movies and books is debatable. The phrase take a powder may be a nod to the fact that women called the bathroom the “powder room”, and often excused themselves to “powder their noses.” A more plausible explanation is that prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs for constipation, insomnia, and headaches in the 1920s often came in a powdered form, wrapped in individual envelopes. The term take a powder is still sometimes used today, but is generally considered old fashioned. Related phrases are takes a powder, took a powder, taken a powder, taking a powder.


When the lines are blurred by the medium itself, good journalists sometimes take a powder. (The Talequah Daily Press)

Now it’s time to take a powder. (The Providence Journal)

One supposes he can only be graceful so many times, which is why he took a powder on Wednesday. (The Globe and Mail)

But that didn’t seem to worry Jared Leto when he took a powder from acting nearly six years ago to concentrate on his rock band, Thirty Seconds to Mars. (The Los Angeles Times)