• (British) IPA: /ˈsmæ.təɹ.ɪŋ/
  • (America) IPA: /ˈsmæɾɹ̩ɪŋ/


  1. A superficial or shallow knowledge of a subject.
    She knows a smattering of Greek, but not enough to carry on a conversation.
    • 1529, Thomas More, The Supplycacyon of Soulys [The Supplication of Souls], London: W. Rastell, Book 2,
      […] he had a lytell smatterynge in the lawe: […]
    • 1694, Mary Astell, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest, London: R. Wilkin, p. 153,
      If any object against a Learned Education, that it will make Women vain and assuming, and instead of correcting, encrease their Pride: I grant, that a smattering in Learning may; for it has this effect on the Men, none so Dogmatical, and so forward to shew their Parts as your little Pretenders to Science.
    • 1726, Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels [Gulliver’s Travels], London: Benjamin Motte, Volume I, Part 1, “A Voyage to Lilliput,” Chapter 2, p. 30,
      There were several of his Priests and Lawyers present, (as I conjectured by their habits) who were commanded to address themselves to me, and I spoke to them in as many Languages as I had the least smattering of, which were High and Low Dutch, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Lingua Franca; but all to no purpose.
    • 1951, Sinclair Lewis, World So Wide, Chapter 2,
      He had only a mail-order smattering of music, painting; he had never read Dante or Goethe nor anything of Shakespeare except the plays on which he had been spoon-fed at Amherst […]
  2. A small number or amount of something.
    There’s only a smattering of people who oppose the first amendment.
    • 2004, Dana Goodyear, “Westville,” The New Yorker, 12 April, 2004,
      More sophisticated dishes, like trout, with a heavy smattering of finely minced rosemary between the filets, are simple and au naturel: the trout comes with a lemon wedge, a bed of mixed greens, and the head.
    • 2011, Suzanne Goldenberg, “The mission to clean up Mount Everest,” The Guardian, 24 October, 2011,
      By the standards of the 70s, when the main climbing routes were littered with discarded tents and food packets, Everest is a lot cleaner, with just a smattering of plastic bottles and sweet wrappers on the rocky plateau that is base camp.
    • 2016, Teddy Greenstein, “Jim Harbaugh rates Wrigley Field atmosphere 'A+++',” Chicago Tribune, 1 November, 2016,
      He was introduced to a smattering of boos from the crowd, a sign of the presence of fans from Notre Dame and other Big Ten schools.
Synonyms Translations Translations
  • German: Handvoll, kleine Menge, geringe Anzahl
  1. present participle of smatter#English|smatter

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