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verb (used without object)
  1. to make a rapid succession of light taps: Raindrops patter on the windowpane.
  2. to move or walk lightly or quickly: The child pattered across the room.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to patter.
  2. to spatter with something.
  1. a rapid succession of light tapping sounds: the steady patter of rain on the tin roof.
  2. the act of pattering.

Origin of patter1

First recorded in 1605–15; pat1 + -er6


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1. pat, beat, rap pelt.


  1. meaningless, rapid talk; mere chatter; gabble.
  2. the usually glib and rapid speech or talk used by a magician while performing, a barker at a circus or sideshow, a comedian or other entertainer, a vendor of questionable wares, or the like; stylized or rehearsed talk used to attract attention, entertain, etc.
  3. amusing lines delivered rapidly by an entertainer or performer, as in a comic routine or in a song.
  4. the jargon or cant of any class, group, etc.
verb (used without object)
  1. to talk glibly or rapidly, especially with little regard to meaning; chatter.
  2. to repeat a paternoster or other prayer in a rapid, mechanical way.
verb (used with object)
  1. to recite or repeat (prayers, verses, etc.) in a rapid, mechanical way.
  2. to repeat or say rapidly or glibly.

Origin of patter2

1375–1425; Middle English pateren to say the paternoster, pray mechanically; see pater
Related formspat·ter·er, pat·er·ist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pattering

Historical Examples

  • These rain-drops are like the pattering feet of the invisible host.

    The Strollers

    Frederic S. Isham

  • There was a delighted squeal and the sound of pattering feet.

  • I close my eyes now and fancy I hear it pattering on the leaves.

    Mary Gray

    Katharine Tynan

  • Some animal kept rustling and pattering, but I let it rustle and patter.

  • I could hear the pattering of their feet upon the planks as they scampered away.

    The Quadroon

    Mayne Reid

British Dictionary definitions for pattering


  1. (intr) to walk or move with quick soft steps
  2. to strike with or make a quick succession of light tapping sounds
  3. (tr) rare to cause to patter
  1. a quick succession of light tapping sounds, as of feetthe patter of mice

Word Origin

C17: from pat 1


  1. the glib rapid speech of comedians, salesmen, etc
  2. quick idle talk; chatter
  3. the jargon of a particular group; lingo
  1. (intr) to speak glibly and rapidly
  2. to repeat (prayers) in a mechanical or perfunctory manner

Word Origin

C14: from Latin pater in Pater Noster Our Father
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for pattering



"make quick taps," 1610s, frequentative of pat (v.). Related: Pattered; pattering. As a noun in this sense from 1844.



"talk rapidly," c.1400, from pater "mumble prayers rapidly" (c.1300), shortened form of paternoster. Perhaps influenced by patter (v.1). The related noun is first recorded 1758, originally "cant language of thieves and beggars." Cf. Devil's paternoster (1520s) "a grumbling and mumbling to oneself."

PATTERING. The maundering or pert replies of servants; also talk or palaver in order to amuse one intended to be cheated. ["Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence," London, 1811]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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