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 Prescott, the 38-year-old, was among those standing in them, picking up supplies for himself and his family as the power continued to sputter and the faucets spit out contaminated water. Washington Post, "In the shadow of its exceptionalism, America fails to invest in the basics," 13 Mar. 2021 That exposed the planet to the solar wind, which clawed away at the atmosphere; and that in turn allowed the planet’s water to sputter off into space. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "Mars Has Much More Water Than Previously Known—But There's a Catch," 16 Mar. 2021 Unfortunately, its inner workings often begin to sputter with age, leading to declines in thinking and memory. Gretchen Reynolds, Star Tribune, "How aerobic exercise enhances aging brains," 11 Mar. 2021 Public health experts have estimated that a majority of Americans, perhaps 70% to 80%, will need to have some degree of immunity to the virus for its spread to sputter and slow. Star Tribune, "Dad got the vaccine, but no one else did — yet," 8 Jan. 2021 Quality control must be uncompromising, and small glitches can cause steady production lines of vaccine to sputter. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, "Pandemic Year Two," 29 Dec. 2020 The consequences of such a delay are dire, economists, policy experts and lawmakers said, particularly as the United States’ economic recovery continues to sputter and the pandemic ravages the country. Emily Cochrane, New York Times, "Jobless Benefits Run Out as Trump Resists Signing Relief Bill," 26 Dec. 2020 But Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups have been urging the Fed to force banks to stockpile capital as long as the economy continues to sputter. Jesse Hamilton, Bloomberg.com, "JPMorgan, Goldman to Restart Buybacks as Fed Gives Green Light," 18 Dec. 2020 By moving your finger along the controller’s touchpad, the controller will sputter and stop as if zipping up a jacket. Todd Martens, Los Angeles Times, "PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X: How to decide which one is right for you," 12 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The county’s undertaking comes as other efforts to vaccinate North Texans sputter. Anna Caplan, Dallas News, "Texas Motor Speedway mega site will give 10,000 COVID-19 vaccines per day in 16 drive-through lanes," 2 Feb. 2021 The economy, another issue on which Republicans often win, has been slow to recover and jobless claims mount as stimulus talks sputter. WSJ, "Is There Still Hope for the Trump Campaign?," 13 Oct. 2020 And as hopes of a quick recovery sputter, fear is rising that a long-term collapse of downtown economies could soon become irreversible. Washington Post, "The pandemic has devastated downtown D.C. Some fear the damage is permanent.," 25 Sep. 2020 Hapless District Attorney Hamilton Burger, played by William Talman, can do little more than lodge vigorous objections to his opponent’s courtroom theatrics and sputter with outrage. Jacqui Shine, Smithsonian Magazine, "What Perry Mason Taught Americans About the Criminal Justice System," 19 June 2020 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

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

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sputter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sputter. Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on sputter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sputter

Nglish: Translation of sputter for Spanish Speakers

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