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  1. a torn piece hanging loose from the main part, as of a garment or flag.
  2. a separate torn piece; shred.
  3. tatters, torn or ragged clothing: dressed in rags and tatters.
verb (used with object)
  1. to tear or wear to tatters.
verb (used without object)
  1. to become ragged.

Origin of tatter1

1375–1425; (noun) late Middle English < Old Norse tǫturr rag, tatter; akin to Old English tætteca rag, shred; (v.) back formation from tattered


  1. a person who does tatting, especially as an occupation.

Origin of tatter2

First recorded in 1880–85; tat + -er1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tatter

Historical Examples

  • It had gone; no trace was left, not a tatter of cloth, not a spot of blood, nothing.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • Why may you not have saved that tatter of the old gown twice seven years, then?

    Donald and Dorothy

    Mary Mapes Dodge

  • You go round by Tatter Brook, says he, an climb the hill from behind.

  • Now quite unexpectedly we saw the "tatter of scarlet" from a new angle.

    A Tatter of Scarlet

    S. R. Crockett

  • Was a tatter't boggart, in a field, an' that they left behind.

British Dictionary definitions for tatter


  1. to make or become ragged or worn to shreds
  1. (plural) torn or ragged pieces, esp of material
  2. in tatters
    1. torn to pieces; in shreds
    2. destroyed or ruined

Word Origin

C14: of Scandinavian origin; compare Icelandic töturr rag, Old English tættec, Old High German zæter rag
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 tatter


mid-14c., "clad in slashed garments," from Old Norse toturr "rag," cognate with Old English tættec, tætteca "rag, tatter," Low German tater "tatter." The noun is attested from c.1400.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper