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Probably representing Middle English *sputren, *sputrien, a frequentative form of 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 (uncountable)

  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. 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 was at this time about ten months old, and was a strong, hearty, happy infant, always laughing when he was awake and always sleeping when he did not laugh, because his little limbs were free from pain and his little stomach was not annoyed by internal troubles. He 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. To utter words hastily and indistinctly; 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
      To sputter out the basest accusations.
  3. 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. (transitive) To spit out hastily by quick, successive efforts, with a spluttering sound; to utter hastily and confusedly, without control over the organs of speech.
    In the midst of caresses, and without the last pretend incitement, to sputter out the basest accusations. -Swift.
  5. (physics, intransitive) To cause surface atoms or electrons of a solid to be ejected by bombarding it with heavy atoms or ions
  6. (physics, transitive) To coat the surface of an object by sputtering


See alsoEdit