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90s Slang You Should Know


[puht-er] /ˈpʌt ər/
verb (used without object)
to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner:
to putter in the garden.
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.
to move or go slowly or aimlessly; loiter.
puttering or ineffective action; dawdling.
Verb phrases
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 forms
putterer, noun
putteringly, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for puttered
Historical Examples
  • Instead of the usual two-hour run to Southampton, we puttered along and did not arrive until after one.

  • Susan puttered about for a few minutes longer, then crossed to the reception room, intending to go up-stairs.

    The Million Dollar Mystery Harold MacGrath
  • My father-in-law and I puttered and pounded, strengthened and tightened, until we felt our semi-trailer was in good-enough order.

  • Joe returned to the house, and puttered around until supper was ready.

  • She took Winnie's wrist in her hand and pressed it reassuringly, then puttered about in her medical bag.

    The Adventures of Kathlyn Harold MacGrath
  • Mrs. Lear did not follow them upstairs immediately, but puttered about the kitchen preparing herself a midnight snack.

    Hoofbeats on the Turnpike Mildred A. Wirt
  • Nurse Nannie puttered about the room for some time, picking up things, and laying out the girls' clothes for the next day.

    Marjorie at Seacote Carolyn Wells
  • In his gray world, he puttered with his nervous hands and tugged at his sheet but he could not sit up.

    When the Owl Cries Paul Bartlett
  • While he was coaxing himself to knock on the pane, Stillman puttered about the shack, petting the dog, filling his pipe.

    The Trail of the Hawk Sinclair Lewis
  • In a day or two I limbered up enough to get into my clothes and I puttered around, offering to do things.

    David Lannarck, Midget George S. Harney
British Dictionary definitions for puttered


noun (golf)
a club for putting, usually having a solid metal head
a golfer who putts


(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 putter about town
(transitive) usually foll by away. to waste (time)
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


a person who puts: the putter of a question
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
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Word Origin and History for puttered



"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.).



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
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