a torn piece hanging loose from the main part, as of a garment or flag.
a separate torn piece; shred.
tatters, torn or ragged clothing: dressed in rags and tatters.

verb (used with object)

to tear or wear to tatters.

verb (used without object)

to become ragged.

Origin of tatter

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




a person who does tatting, especially as an occupation.

Origin of tatter

First recorded in 1880–85; tat + -er1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tatters

Contemporary Examples of tatters

Historical Examples of tatters

  • I forgot all my tatters and stood on tiptoe in the stirrups to overpeer the fence-row.

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

  • The last fragment of self-respect, of bravado even, was in tatters.

  • The bird was pouring out its heart, tearing the moonlight to tatters.

  • I knew what to do with his tatters, but that crimson thatch dumfounded me.

    The O'Ruddy

    Stephen Crane

  • A moonbeam rested on her loosened hair and her dress that was torn to tatters.


    Stephen French Whitman

British Dictionary definitions for tatters



to make or become ragged or worn to shreds


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

Word Origin for tatter

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 tatters



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