Engineering, Electronics. a process that uses ions of an inert gas to dislodge atoms from the surface of a crystalline material, the atoms then being electrically deposited to form an extremely thin coating on a glass, metal, plastic, or other surface.

Origin of sputtering

First recorded in 1900–05; sputter + -ing1
Related formsun·sput·ter·ing, adjective



verb (used without object)

to make explosive popping or sizzling sounds.
to emit particles, sparks, etc., forcibly or explosively, especially accompanied by sputtering sounds.
to eject particles of saliva, food, etc., from the mouth in a light spray, as when speaking angrily or excitedly.
to utter or spit out words or sounds explosively or incoherently, as when angry or flustered.

verb (used with object)

to emit (anything) forcibly and in small particles, as if by spitting: The fire sputtered cinders.
to eject (saliva, food, etc.) in small particles explosively and involuntarily, as in excitement.
to utter explosively and incoherently.


the act or sound of sputtering.
explosive, incoherent utterance.
matter ejected in sputtering.

Origin of sputter

1590–1600; sput- (variant of spout) + -er6; cognate with Dutch sputteren
Related formssput·ter·er, nounsput·ter·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sputtering

Contemporary Examples of sputtering

Historical Examples of sputtering

  • The whole face of the sea around the dock broke into a sort of sputtering.

  • Sputtering and choking for breath, Rawson came to the surface.

    Two Thousand Miles Below

    Charles Willard Diffin

  • His face was afire with the drink that he had taken, and his throat was guggling and sputtering.

  • If you hear a sizzling and sputtering in your electric-light socket, what does it mean?

    Common Science

    Carleton W. Washburne

  • He woke with a start and looked into the sputtering glare of a torch.

    The Valor of Cappen Varra

    Poul William Anderson

British Dictionary definitions for sputtering



  1. to undergo or cause to undergo a process in which atoms of a solid are removed from its surface by the impact of high-energy ions, as in a discharge tube
  2. to coat (a film of a metal) onto (a solid surface) by using this process


the process or noise of sputtering
incoherent stammering speech
something that is ejected while sputtering
Derived Formssputterer, noun

Word Origin for sputter

C16: from Dutch sputteren, of imitative origin
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 sputtering



1590s, "to spit with explosive sounds," cognate with Dutch sputteren, West Frisian sputterje (see spout). Related: Sputtered; sputtering. The noun is attested from 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper