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 But the offense has sputtered at times under first-year starting quarterback Sean Clifford, and the defense has been asked to carry an increased load because of it. C.j. Doon, baltimoresun.com, "Is Penn State elite? Who’s going to win the Pac-12? Most intriguing college football questions for Week 8," 17 Oct. 2019 Auburn sputtered offensively much of the way but stayed in the LSU game with a late touchdown. Creg Stephenson | Cstephenson@al.com, al, "Auburn vs. Ole Miss 2019 live stream; time, TV channel, odds, watch online," 2 Nov. 2019 After Kahnle sputtered to start the seventh inning, allowing a single and a walk, Boone used the Yankees’ best two relievers of this postseason — Britton and Aroldis Chapman — to get the game’s final eight outs. James Wagner, New York Times, "How the Yankees Beat the Astros in Game 5 of the A.L.C.S.," 18 Oct. 2019 After the Patriots’ initial drive sputtered — and there was even a silver lining there as rookie Jake Bailey launched a 53-yard punt — the Patriots scored on four of their next five drives to build a 20-0 halftime lead. Jim Mcbride, BostonGlobe.com, "Patriots have everything working in an opening rout of Steelers," 8 Sep. 2019 The offense mostly sputtered aside from two drives. Chris Wassel, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Stanford Cardinal at USC Trojans odds, picks and best bets," 6 Sep. 2019 Ritter’s offense sputtered in a 35-14 loss to Lutheran and is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry so far. Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star, "Week 3 high school football predictions: A loaded slate headlined by Battle of Lawrence," 4 Sep. 2019 However, the Las Lomas offense sputtered for most of the first half as the Knights battled penalties and a few mistakes. Chace Bryson, SFChronicle.com, "Los Lomas uses strong second-half effort to beat Bishop O’Dowd," 31 Aug. 2019 The Buckeyes' offense sputtered in the second and third quarters behind its relatively inexperienced leader. Mitch Stacy, sun-sentinel.com, "FAU overwhelmed in opener at Ohio State as Georgia transfer Fields accounts for five TDs," 31 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 This year, the expectation that the Federal Reserve will keep raising rates has vanished, and investors now overwhelmingly believe the central bank will cut rates as global growth sputters. Corrie Driebusch, WSJ, "Real-Estate Stocks Rise To New Highs," 17 June 2019 That's challenging as consumer demand sputters and sales are plummeting in China, the world's largest car market. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "Ram and Silverado truck battle could mean deep discounts for consumers," 2 July 2019 As the global economy sputters, central banks across the world are promising rate cuts, balance sheet growth and forms of more direct stimulus to help shore up the respective regions' economies. David Goldman, CNN, "Dow futures rise 300 points on hopeful signals about trade," 19 Aug. 2019 As the global economy sputters, investors are plowing money into long-term US bonds. Cnn.com Wire Service, The Mercury News, "Dow falls more than 600 points after disturbing warning," 14 Aug. 2019 The Wildcats’ hope is that will help prevent an early offensive sputter, which factored into the slow start. Matt Goul, cleveland.com, "Strong start matters to St. Ignatius: 2019 football camp tour," 2 Aug. 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

30 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Sputter.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sputter?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=s&file=sputte01. Accessed 7 December 2019.

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sputter

Spanish Central: Translation of sputter

Nglish: Translation of sputter for Spanish Speakers

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