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verb (used without object)
  1. to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner: to putter in the garden.
  2. to move or go in a specified manner with ineffective action or little energy or purpose: to putter about the house on a rainy day.
  3. to move or go slowly or aimlessly; loiter.
  1. puttering or ineffective action; dawdling.
Verb Phrases
  1. putter away, to spend or fill in a random, inconsequential, or unproductive way; fritter away; waste: We puttered the morning away.
Also especially British, potter.

Origin of putter1

First recorded in 1875–80; variant of potter2
Related formsput·ter·er, nounput·ter·ing·ly, adverb


noun Golf.
  1. a person who putts.
  2. a club with a relatively short, stiff shaft and a wooden or iron head, used in putting.

Origin of putter2

First recorded in 1735–45; putt + -er1


[poo t-er]
  1. a person or thing that puts.
  2. Track. a shot-putter.

Origin of putter3

First recorded in 1810–20; put + -er1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for putter

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The devilish thing about you inventors is that you putter so.

    The Forbidden Trail

    Honor Willsie

  • "Oh, that's all right," she said carelessly, throwing her putter to the boy.

    Ravensdene Court

    J. S. (Joseph Smith) Fletcher

  • Seems's if he loved to putter about 'n' fool with things in a room, like women.

    A Philanthropist

    Josephine Daskam

  • Her next boy, Ben, worked with his father in the pit, as a putter.

    Taking Tales

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • Dick was now becoming a biggish boy, and he hoped soon to be made a putter.

    Taking Tales

    W.H.G. Kingston

British Dictionary definitions for putter


noun golf
  1. a club for putting, usually having a solid metal head
  2. a golfer who putts


  1. (intr; often foll by about or around) to busy oneself in a desultory though agreeable manner
  2. (intr; often foll by along or about) to move with little energy or directionto putter about town
  3. (tr usually foll by away) to waste (time)
  1. the act of puttering
Equivalent term (in Britain and certain other countries): potter

Word Origin

C16 (in the sense: to poke repeatedly): from Old English potian to thrust; see put


  1. a person who putsthe putter of a question
  2. a person who puts the shot
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 putter


"keep busy in a rather useless way," 1841, originally among farmers, alteration of potter (v.). Related: Puttered; puttering.


late 14c., "beast that pushes with the head," agent noun from put (v.). As a type of golf club used in putting, from 1743; see putt (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper