In French we have the word poudrière which basically means a "powder house", although the military world seems to prefer the French equivalent of powder magazine.

In English, poudrière gets translated either to "powder keg" (which I think is a barrel) or to "magazine".

My problem with the latter, besides the fact that it has several meanings (without context you'd never think I mean "a place where powder is kept"), is that it's a bit too generic for a weapon storage building, which prevents me from using it without appending "powder".

Is there a clear single word for such a building or is powder magazine still my best choice?

  • Bjr - you know Arlaud, interestingly (you probably know this, but just for others reading), in English we particularly like using a number of french military terms .. so, cordon sanitaire, materiel and many others. It's interesting we don't happen to use poudrière. As Ronan mentions it's "magazine". – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 8:46
  • @JoeBlow Yes that's an interesting point indeed! – Pierre Arlaud Aug 25 '14 at 8:48
  • Errr ... just to be clear! Obviously you know where we got "magazine" from :) An interesting question here is: "In English, do we use 'magazine' for other styles of store-buildings, or is it only for that military sense?" I simply don't know the answer, it's too confusing to sort out loanwords. Cordialement – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 8:50
  • @JoeBlow Definitely not obvious. I knew that it was originally arabic, the z in the word doesn't lie; but according to wiktionary, it comes from French, which took it from English, which took it from French (I know right?!), which took it from Italian, which took it from arabic. Another funny example is "challenge" which has been imported in French despite being a French word in the first place. Good question though. – Pierre Arlaud Aug 25 '14 at 8:55
  • A place where powder is stored? Why, a compact, of course! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 25 '14 at 10:27

A magazine is the proper term for a place that is used for storing ammunition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magazine_(artillery)

Magazine is the name for an item or place within which ammunition or other explosive material is stored. It is taken originally from the Arabic word "makahazin" meaning "warehouse" via Italian and Middle French.

As mplungjan points out, specifically Gunpowder Magazine can be used for this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunpowder_magazine

A gunpowder magazine is a magazine (building) designed to store the explosive gunpowder in wooden barrels for safety.

While, a place where weapons are stored is an arsenal or an armoury. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armoury

An arsenal is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, or issued, in any combination, whether privately or publicly owned. Arsenal and armoury (British English) or armory (US spelling) are mostly regarded as synonyms, although subtle differences in usage exist.

  • Interesting. Is it nitpicking to point out that powder and ammunition are two different things? – Pierre Arlaud Aug 25 '14 at 8:47
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    It's not nitpicking at all. NOTE THAT I've often seen "powder store" used as well. You know, in 1800sish action novels. – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 8:49
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    Why not link to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunpowder_magazine – mplungjan Aug 25 '14 at 9:04
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    I would personally prefer gunpowder-magazine to understand it is not some other powder - viz powder-room :) – mplungjan Aug 25 '14 at 9:48
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    A powder magazine might be a weekly publication describing makeup or cocaine. – Ronan Aug 26 '14 at 8:53

I would not use magazine to refer to a building in English, especially when discussing ammunition. It suggests something attached to a weapon e.g. a rifle's magazine.

My suggestion is 'powder store'. (But I am no authority whatever on military matters)

  • Hi WS! That's a weird one - "magazine" is exactly the word that is always used in English for a building. (When you use "magazine" to mean the clip on a rifle, you're just using it transitively.) I guess you're not in to Tom Clancy type novels, man! :) – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 8:47
  • @JoeBlow The most recent example the OED provides for that particular meaning of 'magazine' is 1931. However meaning 7b has far more recent references. It is namely: A container or (detachable) receptacle in a repeating rifle, machine-gun, etc., containing a supply of cartridges which are fed automatically to the breech. – WS2 Aug 25 '14 at 9:13
  • WS - that's interesting that the OED's most recent ref. is 1931. By all means: as always, I could be totally wrong (anyone could, I guess). But I think it's just a case of the OED weirding. It's the totally normal word that's used in (as I jokingly put it) any Tom Clancy novel. Perhaps, someone can use some of that "internet stuff" where you "look up percentages" to find usages of it in books?? – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 11:09
  • It's certainly current usage in the Canadian military; I can't vouch for others. Specifically, on land it's a building surrounded by a blast berm where bombs, rockets, pyrotechnics and ammunition are stored, and may also refer to a similar storage location aboard ship. The thing attached to a weapon is a miniature version of the same idea (an ammunition storage facility). – bye Aug 25 '14 at 11:33

In British English we would definitely say powder magazine.

  • Great. Do you have anything supporting that or should I trust you as an official mediator of British English? :-) – Pierre Arlaud Aug 25 '14 at 9:44
  • Arlaud -- you strike on the central epistemological matter of this site. Recalling the most famous quote from the OED ("this shit here is descriptive, not prescriptive, dudes") every question about language usage is, simply, a matter of opinion. Essentially this site is canvassing opinions. As you know we lack any Immortals in english (with cool outfits) to decide "officially" grammar matters. By all means - sometimes evidence can be brought to bear. But it really just comes down to this: if "many" people say (in the question at hand), "I feel X is commonly used". That's about... – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 11:11
  • ...all there is. Unfortunately! BTW I totally agree with PH that you could add "powder" to specifically point to a, well, powder magazine, rather than (say) the missile magazine, small-arms magazine, or the like. – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 11:12
  • PS you need only Google ""powder magazine" military" (like that) to find a zillion uses of it, in web writing anyways. – Fattie Aug 25 '14 at 11:13
  • @arlaud pierre - I am a 60+ year old university educated Brit who regularly visits historical monuments and sites and that is what we call it here in the UK. However I can corroborate that by reference to the OED which gives: "powder magazine hist. a place for the storage of gunpowder in a fort etc. or on board ship." Powder store is not given as an alternative, but powder house is. I trust that helps. – Purple Helen Aug 25 '14 at 11:16

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