Green’s Dictionary of Slang

powder n.2

In phrases

give a powder (to) (v.)

to desert, to abandon.

[US]J. Archibald ‘Knife Thrower’ in Popular Detective June [Internet] What was the name of the actor you gave the powder to?
take a powder (v.) (also do a powder, pull a powder) [abbr. run-out powder n.]

1. to escape, to run away; also as imper.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 66: He declared that Packey had run out on former matches and would take a powder on this one.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ in Red Wind (1946) 86: I’m takin’ a powder from this toy mob.
[US]Reading (PA) Eagle 20 Mar. 7/3: If a student wants to study and his room is invaded by his fraternity or dormitory brothers, he politely tells them to leave by saying [...] ‘cop a sneak’ ‘cop a breeze’ or ‘take a powder’ .
[US]F.S. Fitzgerald ‘Pat Hobby, Putative Father’ in Pat Hobby Stories (1967) 87: Taking a powder, eh?
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 66: Mrs. Hitchcock packed up and took a powder.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 135: I’d like to talk this over with Ben Reisman. He used to be the best. But I can’t locate the son of a bitch. He took a powder.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 200: ‘For God’s sake take a powder, Ziggy!’ he growled. ‘Go away and die!’.
[UK]B. Hill Boss of Britain’s Underworld 91: If she had hit the bottle while I was away, or taken a powder with another bloke [...] I would not have blamed her.
[US]T. Capote Breakfast at Tiffany’s 88: So: the diplomat was planning a powder.
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 102: He [...] was wondering if she would try to pull a powder on him.
[US]K. Marlowe Mr Madam (1967) 182: I took a powder. I up and left.
[UK]F. Norman Dead Butler Caper 139: Why I hadn’t expected Lady Sonia to take a powder on me, I can’t imagine.
[US]T. Philbin Under Cover 219: We got to make sure this guy don’t take a powder.
[Can]O.D. Brooks Legs 17: I don’t want you to get the idea I’m getting ready to take a powder.
[US]T. Dorsey Stingray Shuffle 276: They told me to take a powder – a cyanide powder.

2. to leave without paying one’s rent.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 1106/2: adopted, ca. 1940, ex US.

3. of a boxer, to lose deliberately.

[US]Coshocton (OH) Trib. 13 Feb. 9/1: The boxer who is bought off in a crooked fight takes a ‘powder’ or ‘dive.’.
[US]S. Stallone Paradise Alley (1978) 206: Vic, ya can take a powder if ya want – You don’t have to fight.

4. to lose something.

[US]C. Stella Jimmy Bench-Press 14: Every so often he does something really stupid and takes a powder for the money he puts out on the streets.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 11: ’I gave him a fifty, the bald man repeated. ‘Then I guess you’re taking a powder for that fifty [...] I’d get over it’.