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From Middle English clatren (to make a rattling sound), from Old English *clatrian (attested as the Late Old English gerund clatrung), of onomatopoeic origin.

The noun, derived from the verb, is first attested in the 14th century.



clatter (third-person singular simple present clatters, present participle clattering, simple past and past participle clattered)

  1. (intransitive) To make a rattling sound.
    • 1906, Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman:
      Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
      And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
      He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
      But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
      Bess, the landlord's daughter,
      Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
  2. (transitive) To cause to make a rattling noise.
  3. (intransitive) To chatter noisily or rapidly.
    • c. 1515–1516, published 1568, John Skelton, Againſt venemous tongues enpoyſoned with ſclaunder and falſe detractions &c.:
      But if that I knewe what his name hight,
      For clatering of me I would him ſone quight;
      For his falſe lying, of that I ſpake never,
      I could make him ſhortly repent him forever: […]
    • 1579, Immeritô [pseudonym; Edmund Spenser], “Iuly. Aegloga Septima.”, in The Shepheardes Calender: [], London: [] Hugh Singleton, [], OCLC 606515406; republished as The Shepheardes Calender [], London: [] Iohn Wolfe for Iohn Harrison the yonger, [], 1586, OCLC 837880809:
      I see thou dost but clatter.
  4. (Northern England) To hit; to smack.
    • 1988, Harry Enfield, Friday Night Live:
      "I can't watch it because I have to go outside and clatter someone in the nuts!”
    • 2010, Gerald Hansen, Hand in the Till:
      “An Orange bitch clattered seven shades of shite out of her,” Padraig eagerly piped up.

Derived terms[edit]


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clatter (plural clatters)

  1. A rattling noise; a repetition of abrupt, sharp sounds.
    • 1907, Harold Bindloss, chapter 7, in The Dust of Conflict[1]:
      The patter of feet, and clatter of strap and swivel, seemed to swell into a bewildering din, but they were almost upon the fielato offices, where the carretera entered the town, before a rifle flashed.
    • 2017 June 26, Alexis Petridis, “Glastonbury 2017 verdict: Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Lorde, Stormzy and more”, in the Guardian[2]:
      There was something distinctly low-key, even wilfully alienating about the band’s performance. A scattering of OK Computer tracks were interspersed with more abstract latterday material – the clatter of 15 Step and Myxamatosis.
  2. A loud disturbance.
  3. Noisy talk or chatter.


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