[ spoo t-nik, spuht-; Russian spoot-nyik ]
/ ˈspʊt nɪk, ˈspʌt-; Russian ˈsput nyɪk /


(sometimes initial capital letter) any of a series of Soviet earth-orbiting satellites: Sputnik I was the world's first space satellite.

Origin of sputnik

1957; < Russian spútnik satellite, traveling companion, equivalent to s- together, with + put’ way, route + -nik agent suffix (cf. -nik)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sputniks

  • I can almost remember the atomic bomb, and I sure as hell remember the sputniks.

    This Crowded Earth|Robert Bloch

British Dictionary definitions for sputniks


/ (ˈspʊtnɪk, ˈspʌt-) /


any of a series of unmanned Soviet satellites, Sputnik 1 (launched in 1957) being the first man-made satellite to orbit the earth

Word Origin for Sputnik

C20: from Russian, literally: fellow traveller, from s- with + put path + -nik suffix indicating agent
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 sputniks



"artificial satellite," 1957 (launched Oct. 4, 1957), from Russian sputnik "satellite," literally "traveling companion," from Old Church Slavonic supotiniku, from su- "with, together" + poti "way, journey" (from PIE root *pent- "to go, pass;" see find (v.)) + agent suffix -nik.

The electrifying impact of the launch on the West can be gauged by the number of new formations in -nik around this time (the suffix had been present in a Yiddish context for at least a decade before); e.g. the dog launched aboard Sputnik 2 (Nov. 2, 1957), which was dubbed muttnik by the "Detroit Free Press," etc., and the U.S. satellite which failed to reach orbit in 1957 (because the Vanguard rocket blew up on the launch pad) derided as a kaputnik (in the "Daily Express"), a flopnik ("Daily Herald"), a puffnik ("Daily Mail"), and a stayputnik ("News Chronicle").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for sputniks


[ (spoot-niks, sput-niks) ]

A series of Soviet satellites launched in 1957 and in following years. These were the first artificial satellites.


The appearance of Sputnik stimulated a great deal of effort in the education of scientists and engineers in the United States. This period is now referred to as the post-Sputnik boom.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.