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Probably representing Middle English *sputren, *sputrien, a frequentative form of Middle English sputen (to spout, vomit), equivalent to spout +‎ -er. Cognate with Saterland Frisian spüttern (to inject, spray, splash), West Frisian sputterje (to sputter), Dutch sputteren (to sputter), Low German sputtern, spruttern (to sprinkle), German sprudeln (to spout, squirt). Compare splutter.


sputter (countable and uncountable, plural sputters)

  1. Moist matter thrown out in small detached particles.
  2. Confused and hasty speech.


sputter (third-person singular simple present sputters, present participle sputtering, simple past and past participle sputtered)

  1. (intransitive) To spit, or to emit saliva from the mouth in small, scattered portions, as in rapid speaking.
    • 1868, Anthony Trollope, He Knew He Was Right XI:
      The child [] kicked, and crowed, and sputtered, when his mother took him, and put up his little fingers to clutch her hair, and was to her as a young god upon the earth. Nothing in the world had ever been created so beautiful, so joyous, so satisfactory, so divine!
  2. (transitive, intransitive) To utter words hastily and indistinctly, with a spluttering sound, as in rage; to speak so rapidly as to emit saliva.
    • Congreve
      They could neither of them speak their rage, and so fell a sputtering at one another, like two roasting apples.
    • Jonathan Swift
      In the midst of caresses, and without the least pretended incitement, to sputter out the basest accusations.
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To throw out anything, as little jets of steam, with a noise like that made by one sputtering.
    • Dryden
      Like the green wood [] sputtering in the flame.
  4. (physics, intransitive) To cause surface atoms or electrons of a solid to be ejected by bombarding it with heavy atoms or ions
  5. (physics, transitive) To coat the surface of an object by sputtering


See alsoEdit