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


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

While Model 3 output was still sputtering in March, a Tesla owner in California died in a crash while using the company’s Autopilot driver assistance feature. Sean O'kane, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: Tesla," 29 Dec. 2018 In 2010, a Senate investigation showed sweeping deficiencies at the agency’s hospitals in the Dakotas and Nebraska, but when the senator who spurred the probe retired months later, the effort sputtered. Dan Frosch, WSJ, "South Dakota Senator Moves for Evaluation of Indian Health Service," 15 Feb. 2019 Toyota skidded, Elliott regrouped and pulled away and Truex sputtered home, out of fuel. John Kekis, Fox News, "Chase Elliott gets first NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Watkins Glen," 6 Aug. 2018 Spain’s economy sputtered alongside the post-World War II unrest until Franco approved policies proposed by Catalan economists that spurred the Spanish Miracle of the 1960s and 1970s. Elaine Heinzman, Smithsonian, "How Soup Nourishes Barcelona’s Tradition of Welcoming Immigrants," 30 June 2018 That's a remarkable feat considering that 10 years ago, Buick's sales sputtered and the brand teetered on the edge of GM's chopping block, along with the now-defunct Pontiac and Saturn brands. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "The GM brand that nearly died and the unlikely buyers saving it," 27 June 2018 Purchases of such homes posted their largest annual decline since 2014 in October as the housing market continues to sputter due to higher mortgage rates that are reducing home affordability. A Wsj Staff Reporter, WSJ, "Global Week Ahead: U.S. Trade Data, Home Sales, Federal Reserve Meeting," 16 Dec. 2018 The crack widens and lengthens, and the plume of the toxic gas becomes more intense, and lava can eventually begin to sputter out. Heidi Chang, latimes.com, "Hawaii's Kilauea emits toxic gas from new cracks bubbling with lava," 6 May 2018 When Zack Wheeler, the Mets’ starter on Tuesday night, began to sputter an inning later, the bullpen phone rang for Harvey. James Wagner, New York Times, "Matt Harvey, Demoted to Bullpen, Shows Little Growth in Mets’ Win," 25 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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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Statistics for sputter

Last Updated

23 Mar 2019

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 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

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).


to boil down or concentrate

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