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[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
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 puttering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In this he was not mistaken; Hooker was puttering over his motorcycle by the light of a lantern.

  • It prejudiced Bruce against him as all his puttering had failed to do.

    The Man from the Bitter Roots Caroline Lockhart
  • What he has accomplished makes all my puttering about at what, after all, was pure charity, a puerile sort of service.

    Burned Bridges Bertrand W. Sinclair
  • He was puttering around, making ready to close the place for the night.

    Blow The Man Down Holman Day
  • I'm crazy with this puttering around, trying to woo you and having to woo the entire Gilson tribe.

    Free Air Sinclair Lewis
  • Then he spent the rest of the afternoon puttering around the cabin.

    Cat and Mouse Ralph Williams
  • He did not see them, and after puttering about the boat for a few minutes, started off through the woods.

    Saboteurs on the River Mildred A. Wirt
  • He was puttering with his light and meowing to his tabby cat.

    Wappin' Wharf Charles S. Brooks
  • But how can I consistently write upstairs—I am puttering with a novel—with so expensive a din sounding in my ears?

    Hints to Pilgrims Charles Stephen Brooks
British Dictionary definitions for puttering


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 puttering



"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
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