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[skat-er-ing] /ˈskæt ər ɪŋ/
distributed or occurring here and there at irregular intervals; scattered.
straggling, as an assemblage of parts.
(of votes) cast in small numbers for various candidates.
distributing, dispersing, or separating.
a small, scattered number or quantity.
Physics. the process in which a wave or beam of particles is diffused or deflected by collisions with particles of the medium that it traverses.
Origin of scattering
Middle English word dating back to 1300-50; See origin at scatter, -ing2, -ing1


[skat-er] /ˈskæt ər/
verb (used with object)
to throw loosely about; distribute at irregular intervals:
to scatter seeds.
to separate and drive off in various directions; disperse:
to scatter a crowd.
  1. to refract or diffract (light or other electromagnetic radiation) irregularly so as to diffuse in many directions.
  2. (of a medium) to diffuse or deflect (light or other wave phenomena) by collisions between the wave and particles of the medium.
verb (used without object)
to separate and disperse; go in different directions.
the act of scattering.
something that is scattered.
1125-75; Middle English scatere; compare Dutch schateren to burst out laughing
Related forms
scatterable, adjective
scatterer, noun
scatteringly, adverb
1. broadcast. See sprinkle. 2. Scatter, dispel, disperse, dissipate imply separating and driving something away so that its original form disappears. To scatter is to separate something tangible into parts at random, and drive these in different directions: The wind scattered leaves all over the lawn. To dispel is to drive away or scatter usually intangible things so that they vanish or cease to exist: Photographs of the race dispelled all doubts as to which horse won. To disperse is usually to cause a compact or organized tangible body to separate or scatter in different directions, to be reassembled if desired: Tear gas dispersed the mob. To dissipate is usually to scatter by dissolving or reducing to small atoms or parts that cannot be brought together again: He dissipated his money and his energy in useless activities. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for scattering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • scattering it in tenements and residential districts has been very unfortunate.

    Society Henry Kalloch Rowe
  • scattering flowers upon a cesspool of iniquity will not purify it.

    Gipsy Life George Smith
  • scattering the wind in their wild rush, the animals take flight.

    The Temptation of St. Antony Gustave Flaubert
  • scattering in various directions we ragged about until tea-time.

    From Snotty to Sub Wolstan Beaumont Charles Weld Forester
  • scattering quickly, and under the cover of the different houses, he advanced within a very short distance of the fort.

    The Siege of Mafeking (1900) J. Angus Hamilton.
  • scattering a meager ration of corn, Mrs. Peabody went into the hen house and reappeared presently with a basket filled with eggs.

    Betty Gordon at Bramble Farm Alice B. Emerson
  • scattering good seed seemed to be her mission, and many a good word dropped into fruitful soil, and took its time to bring forth.

    The Right Knock

    Helen Van-Anderson
  • scattering the foam at their bows, the two boats rushed along the blue lane of clear water which lay between the booms.

  • scattering the sheep that flecked the velvet turf of the uplands, they stood at length on the granite crown of the crest itself.

    Mr. Crewe's Career, Complete Winston Churchill
British Dictionary definitions for scattering


a small amount
(physics) the process in which particles, atoms, etc, are deflected as a result of collision


(transitive) to throw about in various directions; strew
to separate and move or cause to separate and move in various directions; disperse
to deviate or cause to deviate in many directions, as in the diffuse reflection or refraction of light
the act of scattering
a substance or a number of objects scattered about
Derived Forms
scatterable, adjective
scatterer, noun
Word Origin
C13: probably a variant of shatter
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 scattering

mid-14c., "that which has been strewn about;" late 14c., "act of dispersing," verbal noun from scatter (v.).



mid-12c. (transitive), possibly a northern English variant of Middle English schateren (see shatter), reflecting Norse influence. Intransitive sense from early 15c. Related: Scattered; scattering. As a noun from 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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scattering in Medicine

scatter scat·ter (skāt'ər)
v. scat·tered, scat·ter·ing, scat·ters

  1. To cause to separate and go in different directions.

  2. To separate and go in different directions; disperse.

  3. To deflect radiation or particles.

The act of scattering or the condition of being scattered.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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scattering in Science
The spreading of a stream of particles or a beam of rays, as of light, over a range of directions as a result of collisions with other particles. The sky appears blue due to the tendency of air molecules to scatter blue and violet light more than light of other frequencies. The scattering probabilities and patterns of subatomic particles, accelerated by particle accelerators and aimed at a target, is a major component of experimental particle physics. See also diffusion, cross section.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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