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

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Other Words from sputter


sputterer noun

Examples of sputter in a Sentence

Verb The motor sputtered and died. He was sputtering with rage. She sputtered an angry protest. “You, you have to be kidding!” he sputtered.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb All were cast, in requests to Kemp's office, as engines of economic opportunity that would sputter under shutdown. Anchorage Daily News, "Some states that raced to reopen let businesses write their own rules, documents show," 9 July 2020 Johnson, who has directed the UO track and cross country programs since 2012 and been an Oregon assistant since 2005, says in some ways he is jaded by having seen past protests against racial injustice flare and sputter out. oregonlive, "Oregon Ducks track coach Robert Johnson speaks out about racial injustice and a teaching moment," 9 June 2020 Sales drop sharply Jeanette Schneider, executive vice president for RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan, said metro Detroit's home sales market was looking strong at the start of March but started to sputter once coronavirus arrived. Jc Reindl, Detroit Free Press, "Amid pandemic, buyers are snapping up Michigan houses sight unseen," 2 May 2020 However, Moody’s said some weaker players could be vulnerable if property transactions continued to sputter in the next three to six months. Stella Yifan Xie, WSJ, "China’s Property Market Has Seized Up. Bondholders Aren’t Fazed.," 3 Mar. 2020 By 1962, Ghatak’s career seemed to have sputtered to a halt after only six films. Ratik Asokan, The New York Review of Books, "A New Look At Ritwik Ghatak’s Bengal," 25 Jan. 2020 Mendez-Rodriguez headed west on West Gulf Bank Road toward the North Freeway, but his car started to sputter and eventually broke down, police said. Jay R. Jordan, Houston Chronicle, "After fleeing crash, BMW driver watches car burn from back of police car, Harris County sheriff says," 20 Jan. 2020 That seemed unlikely not long into the second quarter, when another Burrow touchdown pass pushed the Tigers' lead to 14-0 just as the Bulldogs' own passing game continued to sputter. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Winners and losers from Week 15 in college football led by Oklahoma, LSU and Georgia," 8 Dec. 2019 But an NBC News investigation found that much of that list may be bluster, and that the project seems to have sputtered to a halt in 2016, though Pawar insisted the project is still going forward. NBC News, "Pipe dream: The African cannabis empire that never was," 5 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The health agencies are ignoring the tiny droplets of virus that sputter and spray from our mouths, become aerosolized and then float away into the air, the scientists said, as a likely means of transmission. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, "Can the AC filter in your home, office or local mall protect you from Covid-19?," 7 July 2020 As China’s powerful economic engine sputters, the rest of the world’s expansion is under threat. Keith Bradsher, New York Times, "Coronavirus Could End China’s Decades-Long Economic Growth Streak," 16 Mar. 2020 Protesters are also growing tired of Modi’s sectarianism as the economy sputters. BostonGlobe.com, "“You just needed a trigger,” said Jasbir Singh, a Sikh information technology worker who joined the protests in Bangalore this past week. “In India, religion never decided your citizenship, and it should not in the future.”," 21 Dec. 2019 Aided by higher fiscal spending, domestic demand should hold up even as the global economy sputters. Washington Post, "OCBC, Have You Told the President?," 15 Aug. 2019 Rain slowed to a few sputters as the parade began and families, some huddled around umbrellas, lined Sunset Avenue and awaited the parade that would wend from the north campus in La Grange to the south campus in Western Springs. Jesse Wright, chicagotribune.com, "Families, fans turn out in rain for Lyons Township homecoming parade," 30 Sep. 2019 During the fourth quarter, the Georgia offense began sputter and allowed the Tigers to creep back into the contest. Brett Shweky, sun-sentinel.com, "Dolphins draft dreaming: Tagovailoa’s season-ending injury leaves future for him, other QBs in question," 18 Nov. 2019 The European Central Bank is restarting its bond buying program, known as quantitative easing, or QE, as economic growth sputters. John Detrixhe, Quartz, "A bank chief says negative rates may be bad for banks, but good for society," 3 Oct. 2019 Following the brief sputter, however, Creery bounced back to play his next four holes in one-under par and make the turn at one-over. Chris Jeter, baltimoresun.com, "Moon, Creery secure three-peat at District VII golf championships," 26 Sep. 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for sputter

Time Traveler

The first known use of sputter was in 1598

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Statistics for sputter

Last Updated

16 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sputter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sputter. Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for sputter


How to pronounce sputter (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on sputter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sputter

Spanish Central: Translation of sputter

Nglish: Translation of sputter for Spanish Speakers

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