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[pot-er] /ˈpɒt ər/
verb (used without object), noun, Chiefly British.
putter1 .
Origin of potter2
1520-30; frequentative of obsolete, dial. pote to push, poke, Middle English poten, Old English potian to push, thrust. See put, -er6
Related forms
potterer, noun
potteringly, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for pottering
Historical Examples
  • A week ago, while he was pottering about the mine, he slipped down a ladder and broke his leg.

    The Major Ralph Connor
  • Then she saw old Lawdor pottering in and out of a room into which she had not yet looked.

    The Girl from Sunset Ranch Amy Bell Marlowe
  • Down below I could see Murray in a corner of the yard, pottering over a sick duck.

  • He left the room and she heard him pottering in the kitchen.

    The Paliser case Edgar Saltus
  • He was cut out for the business; never happier than when he was pottering about at the works.

  • Just as if we hadn't had enough tinkering and pottering lately.

  • Barjols is quite out of the beaten track, although this pottering little line, which eventually reaches Arles, passes near it.

    A Spring Walk in Provence Archibald Marshall
  • And what a pottering old rascal Charley was among the stone walls.

    Ravenshoe Henry Kingsley
  • The shabby old laundress who had made my bed and served my breakfast was pottering about the rooms.

    My First Book: Various
  • They are dull creatures: it's pottering about so dull and sleepy a place, I suppose.

    Memoirs of a Midget Walter de la Mare
British Dictionary definitions for pottering


a person who makes pottery


(intransitive; often foll by about or around) to busy oneself in a desultory though agreeable manner
(intransitive; often foll by along or about) to move with little energy or direction: to potter about town
(transitive) usually foll by away. to waste (time): to potter the day away
the act of pottering
Derived Forms
potterer, especially (US & Canadian) putterer, noun
Word Origin
C16 (in the sense: to poke repeatedly): from Old English potian to thrust; see put


(Helen) Beatrix. 1866–1943, British author and illustrator of children's animal stories, such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)
Dennis (Christopher George). 1935–94, British dramatist. His TV plays include Pennies from Heaven (1978), The Singing Detective (1986), and Blackeyes (1989)
Paulus. 1625–54, Dutch painter, esp of animals
Stephen. 1900–70, British humorist and critic. Among his best-known works are Gamesmanship (1947) and One-Upmanship (1952), on the art of achieving superiority over others
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
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Word Origin and History for pottering



"maker of pots" (they also sometimes doubled as bell-founders), late Old English pottere "potter," reinforced by Old French potier "potter," agent noun from root of pot (n.1). As a surname from late 12c. Potter's field (1520s) is Biblical, a ground where clay suitable for pottery was dug, later purchased by high priests of Jerusalem as a burying ground for strangers, criminals, and the poor (Matt. xxvii:7). An older Old English word for "potter" was crocwyrhta "crock-wright."


"occupy oneself in a trifling way," 1740, earlier "to poke again and again" (1520s), frequentative of obsolete verb poten "to push, poke," from Old English potian "to push" (see put (v.)). Sense of "occupy oneself in a trifling way" is first recorded 1740. Related: Pottered; pottering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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