One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A smokeless explosive (propellant) invented by Alfred Nobel in 1887, consisting of nitroglycerine and soluble nitrocellulose in roughly equal proportions, stabilized with camphor or (later) diphenylamine.
Late 19th century; earliest use found in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. From ballist- + -ite, after French balistite or its apparent etymon Italian balistite (although this is first attested slightly later: 1892).
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