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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Meantime, Henry and their offense continue to sputter. San Francisco Chronicle, 19 Sep. 2022 Still, a friend once remarked that for non-dancers, watching dance class can be like watching paint dry, and even this whimsical sketch of a class — and even for me, a fellow obsessee — seems to sputter and run out of gas occasionally. Janine Parker, BostonGlobe.com, 12 Aug. 2022 That contract begins to fray when the economic engine that lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty in a generation begins to sputter. Allison Morrow, CNN, 11 July 2022 Its appearance in that traditionally jingoistic ceremony caused some in the press and the public to sputter with rage. New York Times, 18 Apr. 2022 The Sox went on to sputter, going 23-27 for the first two months of the season. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 6 July 2022 The mixture may start to sputter, so be careful to avoid getting burned. Washington Post, 26 Aug. 2021 As a wave of recent laser sensor SPACs sputter on the stock market, new startup Red Leader is making a play on the industry with a different approach: focus on software, not hardware. Kenrick Cai, Forbes, 26 May 2022 Top 10 in the late Seventies, but began to sputter as the decade came to a close. Enter John Travolta. Joseph Hudak, Rolling Stone, 7 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That ratchets up the pressure to sink or swim -- or rather, soar or sputter -- strictly on its own terms. Brian Lowry, CNN, 19 Aug. 2022 As the pandemic has revealed, even powerful biomedical tools such as vaccines sputter in practice if disadvantaged people can’t access them, or if distrusting people refuse to use them. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 27 June 2022 Felix Rosenqvist, who qualified 4th Saturday, his best start in 2022 outside his Texas pole, saw his car sputter to a halt on Lap 9 in the matter of a couple seconds. Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, 6 July 2022 As wings shrink, air friction overwhelms flight power—that’s why dragonflies soar as houseflies sputter. Jack Tamisiea, Scientific American, 21 Mar. 2022 Hope and optimism are huge areas of need for a skeptical fanbase watching a Kliff Kingsbury team sputter toward the finish line — again. Greg Moore, The Arizona Republic, 19 Dec. 2021 That obstacle seemed likely to prove more unyielding than ever in 2021, when the return from a 60-game to a 162-game season raised the specter of a dramatic late-summer sputter. BostonGlobe.com, 15 Aug. 2021 Palou, who has looked every bit the part of a Dixon-esque champion for so much of 2021, saw his engine sputter in smoke and drop from 4th to 27th with 20 laps to go last month on the IMS road course. Nathan Brown, USA TODAY, 18 Sep. 2021 That has seen its basketball team sputter in postseason after postseason. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, 31 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of sputter was in 1598

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Last Updated

27 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sputter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sputter. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for sputter


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

More from Merriam-Webster on sputter

Nglish: Translation of sputter for Spanish Speakers


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