sput·​ter | \ ˈspə-tər How to pronounce sputter (audio) \
sputtered; sputtering; sputters

Definition of sputter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to spit or squirt from the mouth with explosive sounds
2 : to utter hastily or explosively in confusion or excitement "that's ridiculous!" she sputtered
3 : to dislodge (atoms) from the surface of a material by collision with high energy particles also : to deposit (a metallic film) by such a process

intransitive verb

1 : to spit or squirt particles of food or saliva noisily from the mouth
2 : to speak explosively or confusedly in anger or excitement
3 : to make explosive popping sounds



Definition of sputter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : confused and excited speech or discussion
2 : the act or sound of sputtering

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from sputter


sputterer noun

Examples of sputter in a Sentence


The motor sputtered and died. He was sputtering with rage. She sputtered an angry protest. “You, you have to be kidding!” he sputtered.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The day a darling Scottish butterfly died a fluttering, sputtering death inside the Old Trafford dugout, irrevocably shaping Manchester United's still-to-get-gloomier future. SI.com, "Moyesian Utopia: Scripting an Alternate Reality Where Man Utd Didn't Sack David Moyes," 26 June 2019 But at that time, interest rates were 6 percent, giving the Fed plenty of room to take further action if the economy sputtered. Heather Long, Washington Post, "The fate of Trump’s economy now hinges on the Federal Reserve, the agency the president called ‘crazy’," 6 June 2019 Even if some of these early tests of the public markets sputter, the general buzz in the space will almost certainly last. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Digital Health Companies Hit a New VC Funding Record in 2018," 23 June 2019 Lefty falters: Phil Mickelson’s perpetual quest for the career Grand Slam sputtered on one of his favorite courses. Ron Kroichick, SFChronicle.com, "Brooks Koepka makes a run at U.S. Open history, settles for second place," 16 June 2019 The Crusaders converted six 3-pointers, including five in the first half, but the offense sputtered midway through the third quarter. Rich Torres, Indianapolis Star, "Scecina captures school's first basketball regional title," 10 Mar. 2018 Run game sputtering –The Eagles finished fourth in yards per carry (4.5) during the regular season, but have averaged just 3.3 in their two playoff games. Paul Domowitch, Philly.com, "Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl LII: Numbers that matter," 4 Feb. 2018 Global opinion is turning against China and the world’s second-largest economy is suddenly sputtering. Michael Auslin, WSJ, "Trump’s Successful Pivot to Asia," 15 Jan. 2019 The Buckeyes are sputtering with three losses in five games, while the Jackrabbits have won 11 straight. Shannon Ryan, chicagotribune.com, "Breaking down each region in the NCAA tournament: Teams, players and games to watch," 11 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The tech giant is under pressure to build up new areas of business as growth in its bread-and-butter smartphone business sputters. Tripp Mickle, WSJ, "Apple Launches New AirPods in Wearables Push," 20 Mar. 2019 He was arrested two days later when a bomb in the back of a sport utility vehicle fizzled with a mere sputter of smoke, drawing the attention of a street vendor who alerted police, the Associated Press reported when he was sentenced later that year. NBC News, "Man under surveillance discussed setting off explosive device in Times Square, sources say," 7 June 2019 The March report will show whether employers have significantly downshifted hiring plans or whether February was just a sputter during a long stretch of job gains. Eric Morath, WSJ, "Economists Expect Hiring Rise, Wage Gains in March Jobs Report," 4 Apr. 2019 Fast-forward the cosmic clock, compressing eons into seconds, and the stars of the night sky would wink out one by one, as the central, stabilizing inferno within each one sputters and dies. Alan Hirshfeld, WSJ, "Book Review: Feeling Gravity’s Pull," 16 Nov. 2018 Investors can still get their money back if the borrower’s stock sputters, though defaults remain a risk. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "Rising Rates Revitalize Convertible-Bond Sales," 10 Dec. 2018 Ferrari NV’s post- Sergio Marchionne future started Wednesday with a sputter as the shares plunged following comments from the new CEO. Eric Sylvers, WSJ, "Ferrari Reports Higher Profit, But Shares Fall on New CEO’s Comments," 1 Aug. 2018 As the world-wide smartphone market sputters, the iPhone maker is trying to accelerate a growing services business that includes app store sales, mobile payments and a music-streaming subscription offering. Erich Schwartzel, WSJ, "Apple Partners With Movie Studio A24 to Make Feature-Length Films," 15 Nov. 2018 Throughout its two seasons, HBO’s Westworld has trotted out no shortage of bad guys, from robot gunslingers to mad inventors to dialog that sputters and clunks. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "Westworld’s Real Villain Has Always Been Its Privacy Policy," 24 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sputter.' 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 sputter


1598, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1673, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sputter


akin to Dutch sputteren to sputter

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sputter

Statistics for sputter

Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sputter

The first known use of sputter was in 1598

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sputter



English Language Learners Definition of sputter

: to make loud sounds like explosions
: to speak quickly or in a confused way because you are upset, surprised, etc.


sput·​ter | \ ˈspə-tər How to pronounce sputter (audio) \
sputtered; sputtering

Kids Definition of sputter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to spit noisily from the mouth She came out of the water coughing and sputtering.
2 : to speak in a hasty or explosive way in confusion or excitement Students sputtered out protests.
3 : to make explosive popping sounds The motor sputtered and died.



Kids Definition of sputter (Entry 2 of 2)

: the act or sound of sputtering

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on sputter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sputter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sputter

Spanish Central: Translation of sputter

Nglish: Translation of sputter for Spanish Speakers

Comments on sputter

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


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Add Diction

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!