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From Middle English schateren (to scatter, dash), an assibilated form of Middle English scateren ("to scatter"; see scatter), from Old English *scaterian (possibly attested as Old English *sċeacerian in tōsċeacerian (to waste, devastate, scatter), from Proto-Germanic *skat- (to smash, scatter). Cognate with Dutch schateren (to burst out laughing), Low German schateren, Albanian shkatërroj (to destroy, devastate).


  • IPA(key): /ˈʃæt.ə(ɹ)/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ætə(r)


A lightglobe shatters after it is shot with a pistol

shatter (third-person singular simple present shatters, present participle shattering, simple past and past participle shattered)

  1. (transitive) to violently break something into pieces.
    The miners used dynamite to shatter rocks.
    a high-pitched voice that could shatter glass
    The old oak tree has been shattered by lightning.
  2. (transitive) to destroy or disable something.
  3. (intransitive) to smash, or break into tiny pieces.
  4. (transitive) to dispirit or emotionally defeat
    to be shattered in intellect; to have shattered hopes, or a shattered constitution
    • 1984 Martyn Burke, The commissar's report, p36
      Your death will shatter him. Which is what I want. Actually, I would prefer to kill him.
    • 1992 Rose Gradym "Elvis Cures Teen's Brain Cancer!" Weekly World News, Vol. 13, No. 38 (23 June, 1992), p41
      A CAT scan revealed she had an inoperable brain tumor. The news shattered Michele's mother.
    • 2006 A. W. Maldonado, Luis Muñoz Marín: Puerto Rico's democratic revolution, p163
      The marriage, of course, was long broken but Munoz knew that asking her for a divorce would shatter her.
    • Norris
      a man of a loose, volatile, and shattered humour
  5. (obsolete) To scatter about.
    • Milton
      Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year.



shatter (plural shatters)

  1. (archaic) A fragment of anything shattered.
    to break a glass into shatters
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Jonathan Swift to this entry?)