• (GA) IPA: /ˈspætɚ/

spatter (spatters, present participle spattering; past and past participle spattered)

  1. (transitive) To splash (someone or something) with small droplets.
    When my wet chihuahua shook himself, I was spattered with smelly water.
    • circa 1611 George Chapman (translator), The Iliad of Homer Prince of Poets, London: Nathaniell Butter, Book 20, p. 286,
      His axel-tree, and chariot wheeles, all spatterd with the blood
      Hurl’d from the steeds houes, and the strakes.
    • 1876, Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Chapter ,
      The old Welshman came home toward daylight, spattered with candle-grease, smeared with clay, and almost worn out.
    • 1965, William Trevor, The Boarding House, King Penguin, 1983, Chapter 8, p. 85,
      He began to blow at the surface of the tea. He blew too hard and the tea spattered the skirt of Nurse Clock’s uniform.
  2. (transitive, figuratively) To cover, or lie upon (something) by having been scattered, as if by splashing.
    • 1660, Nathaniel Ingelo, Bentivolio and Urania, London: Richard Marriot, Book 2, pp. 79-80,
      […] she seem’d to have woven the Rainbow into a loose Robe, which being so rarified that she might be seen through it, and also spatter’d with radiant Jewells in the forms of Starrs […]
    • 1949, Arthur Koestler, Promise and Fulfilment, New York: Macmillan, Book 2, Chapter 2, p. 218,
      The low, whitewashed houses between the red and green acacia trees are spattered with shell-holes […]
    • 1955, Samuel Beckett and Patrick Bowles (translators), Molloy (novel) by Samuel Beckett, in Three Novels, London: Calder, 1994, p. 128,
      The roof’s serrated ridge, the single chimney-stack with its four flues, stood out faintly against the sky spattered with a few dim stars.
    • 1960, Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear It Away, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007, Chapter 6,
      Patches of light sifting through them [the trees] spattered the concrete walks with sunshine.
    • 1996, Guy Vanderhaeghe, The Englishman's Boy, New York: Anchor, Chapter 19, p. 178,
      Then they began to climb, steering to open uplands spattered with yellow cinquefoil […]
  3. (transitive) To distribute (a liquid) by sprinkling; to sprinkle around.
    to spatter blood
    • 1720, Alexander Pope (translator), The Iliad of Homer, London: Bernard Lintott, Volume 6, Book 22, lines 92-97, p. 7,
      Perhaps ev’n I, reserv’d by angry Fate
      The last sad Relick of my ruin’d State,
      (Dire Pomp of sov’reign Wretchedness!) must fall,
      And stain the Pavement of my regal Hall;
      Where famish’d Dogs, late Guardians of my Door,
      Shall lick their mangled Master’s spatter’d Gore.
    • 1877, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Harold, London: Henry S. King, Act II, Scene 2, p. 70,
      O God, that I were in some wide field
      With nothing but my battle-axe and him
      To spatter his brains!
    • 1989, David Foster Wallace, Girl with Curious Hair, “Westward the course of empire takes its way,”
      Streaks of DeHaven’s real face can be seen through the trademark face as the clown slams the hood shut in the spattered rain.
  4. (transitive, figurative) To send out or disperse (something) as if in droplets.
    • 1922, D. H. Lawrence, Aaron's Rod (novel), London: Martin Secker, Chapter 12, p. 139,
      The cabman spattered his few words of English.
    • 1929, Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel, New York: Scribner, Part 1, Chapter 8, p. 74,
      […] they had seen him, at the sound of the alarm, rush like a madman from his window in Gant’s shop, leaving the spattered fragments of a watch upon his desk […]
    • 1945, Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, New York: New Directions, “The Soul of Anaesthesia,” pp. 88-89,
      […] a man with a machine gun sits in a cage suspended from the ceiling and moving like a trolley spatters bullets into the cells.
  5. (intransitive) To send out small droplets; to splash in small droplets (on or against something).
    Make sure the pieces of fish are dry before you put them into the hot oil so that it doesn’t spatter.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 9, lines 564-567,
      they fondly thinking to allay
      Thir appetite with gust, instead of Fruit
      Chewd bitter Ashes, which th’ offended taste
      With spattering noise rejected:
    • 1956, Langston Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander, New York: Hill and Wang, 1993, Chapter 8, p. 374,
      Where the headquarters tent sags, water drips down and spatters on the table.
    • 1990, Edna O'Brien, “‘Oft in the Stilly Night’” in Lantern Slides, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, p. 17,
      Later, the two priests left together, […] their hoods pulled up because it had begun to spatter with rain.
    • 1994, Paul Theroux, Millroy the Magician, New York: Random House, Chapter 25, p. 220,
      Most mornings he roasted lamb, turning it on a spit, where it spattered and dripped […]
  6. (obsolete, transitive, figurative) To injure by aspersion; to defame.
    • 1647, John Hall (poet), “A Genethliacon to the Infant Muse of his dearest Friend” in Poems, London: J. Rothwell,
      Let envy spatter what it can,
      This Embryon will prove a man.
    • 1728, John Gay, The Beggar's Opera, Dublin: George Risk et al., Act II, Scene 13, “Good-morrow, Gossip Joan,” p. 42,
      Why how now, Madam Flirt?
      If you thus must chatter;
      And are for flinging Dirt,
      Let’s try who best can spatter;
    • 1770, George Saville Carey, “To a Friend” in Analects in Verse and Prose, London: P. Shatwell et al., Volume 2, p. 171,
      I Wrote a letter long ago,
      But did not like it, you must know,
      So rather chose to take my time,
      And write my own defence in rhime,
      Though not in your be-crabbed stile,
      To spatter, threaten, and revile;
    • 1793, Charles Dibdin, The Younger Brother, London: for the author, Volume 3, Chapter 9, p. 143,
      […] there is nothing but may be represented upon some principle or other apparently worthy, without the wretched necessity of having recourse to spatter and vilify others.
  • (cover or lie upon by having been scattered) strew
Translations Noun

spatter (plural spatters)

  1. A spray or shower of droplets hitting a surface.
    • 1763, Richard Bentley (writer), Patriotism, a Mock-Heroic, London: M. Hinxman, Canto 5, pp. 65-66,
      As a rough Water-Dog, New-England’s Breed,
      Fresh plaister’d from some Pond with Mud and Weed,
      Round from his Fleece the dirty Puddle shakes
      Rejoicing in the Spatter that he makes:—
    • 1913, Willa Cather, O Pioneers!, Part 5, Chapter 1,
      Ivar turned the mare and urged her into a sliding trot. Her feet sent back a continual spatter of mud.
    • 1998, Michael Cunningham, The Hours (novel), New York: Picador, p. 15,
      She crosses the plaza, receives a quick spatter from the fountain […]
  2. A spot or spots of a substance spattered on a surface.
    There was what looked like a spatter of blood on one wall.
    • 1847, Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Chapter 13,
      […] I groped from step to step, collecting the shattered earthenware, and drying the spatters of milk from the banister with my pocket-handkerchief.
    • 1995, Philip Pullman, Northern Lights (novel) (The Golden Compass), New York: Knopf, 2003, Part 3, Chapter 19, p. 286,
      […] they led the way in through the huge arch, over the icy ground that was filthy with the spatter of the birds.
  3. The sound of droplets hitting a surface.
    • 1917, Hugh Walpole, The Green Mirror, New York: George H. Doran, Book 3, Chapter 3, p. 344,
      As Henry lay awake that first night the hiss and spatter of the rain against his window seemed to have a personal grudge against him.
  4. (figuratively) A burst or series of sounds resembling the sound of droplets hitting a surface.
    • 1904, Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, Chapter 8,
      [Father Roman] had shriven many simple souls on the battlefields of the Republic, kneeling by the dying on hillsides, in the long grass, in the gloom of the forests, to hear the last confession with the smell of gunpowder smoke in his nostrils, the rattle of muskets, the hum and spatter of bullets in his ears.
    • 1919, Henry Blake Fuller, Bertram Cope's Year, Chapter 32,
      The rapid handing out of the diplomas brought frequent applause—bits, spatters, volleys, as the case might be.
    • 1952, John Steinbeck, East of Eden (novel), New York: Penguin, 1981, Chapter 48, p. 606,
      He went through the darkened parlor with its low early evening spatter of conversation.
    • 1964, James Baldwin, “Nothing Personal” in Collected Essays, New York: Library of America, 1998, p. 692,
      […] punctuated by the roar of great automobiles, overtaking gangsters, the spatter of tommy-guns mowing them down […]
  5. (figuratively) A collection of objects scattered like droplets splashed onto a surface.
    • 1988, Don DeLillo, Libra (novel), New York: Viking, Part 2, “12 August,” p. 270,
      The attendant had a droopy lower lip, a rust-tone complexion with a spatter of freckles across the cheekbones […]
    • 2001, Nadine Gordimer, The Pickup, Penguin, 2002, p. 18,
      It was untidy; the quarters of someone not used to looking after herself; to seat himself he removed the stained cup and plate and a spatter of envelopes, sheets of opened letters, withered apple-peel, old Sunday paper, from a chair.

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