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 putter

First recorded in 1875–80; variant of potter2
Related formsput·ter·er, nounput·ter·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for puttering

loiter, niggle, poke, mess, doodle, puddle, tinker, fiddle, fritter, potter

Examples from the Web for puttering

Contemporary Examples of puttering

  • People—several of them bare-footed—were wearing flannel pajamas, puttering around in the chilly weather, preparing for bed.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Canoodling at Wall Street

    Casey Schwartz

    October 19, 2011

Historical Examples of puttering

  • He was puttering with his light and meowing to his tabby cat.

    Wappin' Wharf

    Charles S. Brooks

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

  • He was puttering around, making ready to close the place for the night.

  • Then he spent the rest of the afternoon puttering around the cabin.

    Cat and Mouse

    Ralph Williams

  • Said he'd rather lie in bed for a week than have you puttering around.

    The Promise

    James B. Hendryx

British Dictionary definitions for puttering



noun golf

a club for putting, usually having a solid metal head
a golfer who putts




(intr; often foll by about or around) to busy oneself in a desultory though agreeable manner
(intr; often foll by along or about) to move with little energy or directionto putter about town
(tr usually foll by away) to waste (time)


the act of puttering
Equivalent term (in Britain and certain other countries): potter

Word Origin for putter

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




a person who putsthe 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

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