scat·​ter | \ ˈska-tər How to pronounce scatter (audio) \
scattered; scattering; scatters

Definition of scatter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to cause to separate widely
b : to cause to vanish
2 archaic : to fling away heedlessly : squander
3 : to distribute irregularly
4 : to sow by casting in all directions : strew
5a : to reflect irregularly and diffusely
b : to cause (a beam of radiation) to diffuse or disperse
6 : to divide into ineffectual small portions

intransitive verb

1 : to separate and go in various directions : disperse
2 : to occur or fall irregularly or at random



Definition of scatter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of scattering
2 : a small quantity or number irregularly distributed or strewn about : scattering
3 : the state or extent of being scattered especially : dispersion

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from scatter


scatterer \ ˈska-​tər-​ər How to pronounce scatterer (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for scatter


scatter, disperse, dissipate, dispel mean to cause to separate or break up. scatter implies a force that drives parts or units irregularly in many directions. the bowling ball scattered the pins disperse implies a wider separation and a complete breaking up of a mass or group. police dispersed the crowd dissipate stresses complete disintegration or dissolution and final disappearance. the fog was dissipated by the morning sun dispel stresses a driving away or getting rid of as if by scattering. an authoritative statement that dispelled all doubt

Examples of scatter in a Sentence

Verb The wind scattered the pile of leaves. The marbles scattered across the floor. She scattered the books on the table. He scatters his toys all around the house. Noun played before only a scatter of spectators in that huge stadium
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In the United States, they may get caught up in systems of westerly winds that scatter them over the East Coast. Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American, "Saharan Dust Plume Slams U.S., Kicking Up Climate Questions," 26 June 2020 Police had used pepper balls to scatter protest crowds after curfew through the weekend. Washington Post, "Kentucky mom wants peace, justice for son killed by police," 8 June 2020 His research has shown that the stunning blue morpho butterfly gets its glittering blue color not from pigment, but from the Christmas-tree like shapes of the scale’s microstructures that scatter all frequencies of light but blue. Popular Science, "We can soon thank butterfly tongues for better cancer treatments and vaccines," 2 June 2020 Hours earlier, a larger crowd elsewhere in the city shut down traffic, and police officers and state troopers used tear gas and pepper spray to scatter the demonstrators. NBC News, "Curfews not enough to keep the peace with protests, arrests coast to coast," 1 June 2020 After protesters shut down Interstate 5 through central Seattle, police used flash bangs and pepper spray to scatter them. Fox News, "Rioting across the nation leaves cities reeling as hundreds arrested, National Guard called in, businesses damaged and at least one dead," 1 June 2020 Police used batons to move protesters back and shot rubber bullets to scatter the crowd. Dallas News, "Protests heat up across US, governors call in National Guard," 30 May 2020 Many researchers are focused on the depths of the moon’s coldest, darkest craters, which are scattered around the sun-shy lunar poles. Leonard David, Scientific American, "NASA Proposes New Rules for Moon-Focused Space Race," 21 May 2020 My notebook in my lap, my books scattered around me. New York Times, "‘Drifts,’ by Kate Zambreno: An Excerpt," 19 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Police declared an unlawful assembly about 10:30 p.m. and used force to scatter protesters. oregonlive, "Portland protests continue over the weekend; demonstrations scheduled to resume Monday," 29 June 2020 Divide the potato salad among four small plates (or two larger ones), top each with half an ajitama (or two halves), scatter the diagonal sliced scallion greens on top and serve. Dallas News, "Potato salad celebration: 4 recipes for your next socially-distanced picnic," 17 June 2020 Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy & his staff are making arrangements to return to Frisco & will report to work at The Star on Friday for the first time since Covid-19 forced everyone to scatter in March, sources said. David Moore, Dallas News, "NFL coaches allowed to return to team facilities on Friday," 4 June 2020 The incident caused demonstrators to scatter, fearing something much worse than ice was being thrown at them. Lucas Aulbach, The Courier-Journal, "What happened Wednesday on the seventh night of Breonna Taylor protests in Louisville," 4 June 2020 Federal officers deployed chemical irritants to scatter dozens of protesters, a dramatic confrontation that played out on live television just minutes before Mr. Trump was set to address the nation from the White House Rose Garden. Stefan Becket, CBS News, "Barr defends decision to forcefully clear protesters near White House," 4 June 2020 Those officers — and more, tending to injured law enforcement members — scatter as an SUV drives past a military vehicle on Buffalo’s east side. Jori Epstein, USA TODAY, "'We know people are angry and hurting': 2 New York officers struck by vehicle during George Floyd protests in Buffalo," 2 June 2020 Many members of the mob scatter after the man appears to lie motionless on the ground in a pool of blood. Fox News, "Machete-wielding man attacked by Dallas mob in shocking video was ‘allegedly protecting neighborhood’: police," 1 June 2020 Now, swarms of anti-riot officers, under the command of a new police chief appointed by Beijing, scatter even peaceful demonstrators with water cannons and pepper spray from the outset. Vivian Wang,, "‘Facing the darkest hour’: Hong Kong’s protest movement in crisis," 30 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scatter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of scatter


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


1642, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for scatter


Middle English scateren, schateren to disperse, break up, destroy; akin to Middle Dutch schaderen to scatter

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about scatter

Time Traveler for scatter

Time Traveler

The first known use of scatter was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for scatter

Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Scatter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for scatter


How to pronounce scatter (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of scatter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to cause (things or people) to separate and go in different directions
: to separate and go in different directions
: to place or leave (things) in different places



English Language Learners Definition of scatter (Entry 2 of 2)

: a small number or group of things placed or found apart from each other


scat·​ter | \ ˈska-tər How to pronounce scatter (audio) \
scattered; scattering

Kids Definition of scatter

1 : to toss, sow, or place here and there He scattered his toys all around the house.
2 : to separate or cause to separate and go in different ways The crowd suddenly scattered.
scat·​ter | \ ˈskat-ər How to pronounce scatter (audio) \

Medical Definition of scatter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to cause (a beam of radiation) to diffuse or disperse



Medical Definition of scatter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act of scattering
2 : the state or extent of being scattered especially : scattering

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on scatter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for scatter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with scatter

Spanish Central: Translation of scatter

Nglish: Translation of scatter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of scatter for Arabic Speakers

Comments on scatter

What made you want to look up scatter? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!