sput·ter | \ˈspə-tər \
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


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

The Cubs’ sputtering offense is in need of some cohesiveness, but manager Joe Maddon is stuck trying to juggle his lineups looking for some successful combinations. . Mark Gonzales, chicagotribune.com, "Manager Joe Maddon looking for right combination to awaken Cubs offense," 3 May 2018 The slowly unfolding plan at GE is happening as P&G continues to sputter, generating lackluster results even as Peltz joined the board in March. Alexander Coolidge, Cincinnati.com, "GE breakup so far eludes Nelson Peltz. What does that mean for P&G?," 25 June 2018 But the company’s sales have sputtered, and its once-iconic stature has diminished as losses have piled up. Sarah Nassauer, WSJ, "J.C. Penney CEO Quits to Join Lowe’s," 22 May 2018 They are created by frothier versions of fissure flows, with higher gas content that causes material to sputter higher (and more dangerously) into the air. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Here’s what’s going on with Hawaii’s erupting volcano," 11 May 2018 Flak destroyed one of Old Faithful’s four engines and a second began to sputter. Peter Rowe, sandiegouniontribune.com, "In Ramona, an airplane and an aviator provide living lessons on World War II," 20 Apr. 2018 However, MSU’s defense caused Wisconsin’s offense to sputter atop the arc. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State advances in Big Ten tournament, can restore 'pride' vs. Michigan," 2 Mar. 2018 But more than two years later, things seem to have sputtered. Katherine Peralta, charlotteobserver, "Bojangles’ is sputtering two-plus years after going public. What’s wrong?," 12 Jan. 2018 As the Bills offense continues to sputter, the crowd at the Big Tree begins chanting for a pick-six. Jenny Vrentas, SI.com, "Beer, Wings, Zubaz and Nerves: A Playoff (!) Sunday With Bills Fans," 7 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 No buzzing sales banter and gossip, no sputter of yellow and white taxis or boda boda taxi bikes. David Mckenzie, CNN, "Fear and failure: How Ebola sparked a global health revolution," 26 May 2018 One takes a drag, coughs extensively, sputters, hocks an impressive loogie. Elisa Albert, Longreads, "O, Small-bany!," 7 May 2018 Should that possibility sputter, Salvini has expressed openness to a deal between his anti-migrant League and the 5-Stars. Washington Post, "Italian region votes as political leaders spar over future," 29 Apr. 2018 Unfortunately, where The Iron Giant contains a graceful arc, Lost in Space sputters. Karen Han, The Verge, "Lost in Space shows a long-running problem with stories about AI," 24 Apr. 2018 Since 2015 Hon Hai gets more than half its revenue from Apple but Gou’s looking for ways to expand beyond merely assembling gadgets -- especially as the smartphone market sputters. Debby Wu, Bloomberg.com, "Hon Hai Profit Shows IPhone Delay Offset by One-Time Sharp Gain," 30 Mar. 2018 Mitch Albom Pittsburgh 30, Minnesota 21 This is based on a feeling that all is not perfect in New England, and that maybe this is the year the engine sputters. Detroit Free Press, "Super Bowl LII: Our writers make picks on this season's NFL champ," 5 Jan. 2018 Since its first recorded eruption in 1616, there have been roughly 58 known events—four in just the last decade—which have ranged from small sputters to full-on disasters. Maya Wei-haas, Smithsonian, "Geology Makes the Mayon Volcano Visually Spectacular—And Dangerously Explosive," 19 Jan. 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.

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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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Phrases Related to sputter

sputter/roar to life

Statistics for sputter

Last Updated

5 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sputter

The first known use of sputter was in 1598

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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 \
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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Comments on sputter

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