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

The offense, hopefully, is just sputtering in the season’s early days. Dan Labbe, cleveland.com, "The Browns offense is struggling, but there’s still a lot of upside," 17 Sep. 2019 Christian-Muslim conflict is also sputtering across west Africa and would now make any papal visit there a logistical and security challenge. The Economist, "Why Pope Francis struggles in Africa," 7 Sep. 2019 Most sputter out or dribble away; few last a lifetime. Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter, "Why Nobody in Hollywood Has Any Friends," 30 Aug. 2019 Apple’s iPhone sales are still sputtering while the company tries to offset the decline by milking more money from digital services such as music. Michael Liedtke, SFChronicle.com, "Apple profit falls 13%," 30 July 2019 Give me Cleveland to win and the Titans to sputter on offense. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Dieter’s NFL betting guide: In-depth analysis and picks of every Week 1 game," 6 Sep. 2019 Which brings us to 2018, another season in which the offense sputtered to historic lows under Dantonio. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football 2019 outlook: Turn back the clock to 2013 season," 25 Aug. 2019 Under Fitzgerald, the 2018 Mississippi State offense mostly sputtered in Moorhead’s more pass-centric scheme. The Si Staff, SI.com, "2019 Preview: Mississippi State Needs Offense to Catch Up With Elite Defense," 9 Aug. 2019 In three seasons as a starter at Duke, Jones soared in some games and sputtered in others, but his arm talent and mobility, intelligence and intangibles, all coiled in a 6-5, 220-pound frame, smacked of N.F.L. potential. Ben Shpigel, New York Times, "Can the Giants Really Bank on Daniel Jones?," 7 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 O'Rourke's fundraising sputters in second quarter MANNING, IOWA— Beto O’Rourke’s fundraising machine stalled in the second quarter. NBC News, "Study finds 19 percent of U.S. adult Twitter users follow @realDonaldTrump," 16 July 2019 The tech giant is under pressure to build up new areas of business as growth in its bread-and-butter smartphone business sputters. Tripp Mickle, WSJ, "Apple Launches New AirPods in Wearables Push," 20 Mar. 2019 He was arrested two days later when a bomb in the back of a sport utility vehicle fizzled with a mere sputter of smoke, drawing the attention of a street vendor who alerted police, the Associated Press reported when he was sentenced later that year. NBC News, "Man under surveillance discussed setting off explosive device in Times Square, sources say," 7 June 2019 The March report will show whether employers have significantly downshifted hiring plans or whether February was just a sputter during a long stretch of job gains. Eric Morath, WSJ, "Economists Expect Hiring Rise, Wage Gains in March Jobs Report," 4 Apr. 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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Statistics for sputter

Last Updated

19 Oct 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

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involving a confidence or trust

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