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From Middle English scateren, skateren, (also schateren, see shatter), from Old English *sceaterian, probably from a dialect of Old Norse. Possibly related to Proto-Indo-European *skey- (to cut, split, shatter). Compare Middle Dutch scheteren (to scatter), Low German schateren, Dutch schateren (to burst out laughing); and is apparently remotely akin to Ancient Greek σκεδάννυμι (skedánnumi, scatter, disperse).[1] and Tocharian B kät- (to scatter, sow seeds). Doublet of shatter.





scatter (third-person singular simple present scatters, present participle scattering, simple past and past participle scattered)

  1. (ergative) To (cause to) separate and go in different directions; to disperse.
    The crowd scattered in terror.
  2. (transitive) To distribute loosely as by sprinkling.
    Her ashes were scattered at the top of a waterfall.
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Third Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      Why should my muse enlarge on Libyan swains, / Their scattered cottages, and ample plains?
  3. (transitive, physics) To deflect (radiation or particles).
    • 2008, BioWare, Mass Effect (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →ISBN, →OCLC, PC, scene: Chasca planetary description:
      Chasca's ring is unique. It appears to be, for lack of a better term, a massive piece of alien "installation art." The rings are made of small pieces of synthetic material, and are almost invisible from space. From the ground, they catch and scatter the light of Matano in picturesque ways. It is not known who created the ring or when.
  4. (intransitive) To occur or fall at widely spaced intervals.
  5. (transitive) To frustrate, disappoint, and overthrow.
    to scatter hopes or plans
  6. (transitive) To be dispersed upon.
    Desiccated stalks scattered the fields.
    • 2016, J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy, page 21:
      [] its beauty is obscured by the environmental waste and loose trash that scatter the countryside.
  7. (transitive, baseball) Of a pitcher: to keep down the number of hits or walks.



Derived terms



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scatter (countable and uncountable, plural scatters)

  1. The act of scattering or dispersing.
  2. A collection of dispersed objects.
    • 2006, Theano S. Terkenli, Anne-Marie d'Hauteserre, Landscapes of a New Cultural Economy of Space, Springer Science & Business Media, →ISBN, page 84:
      The Los Angeles Basin evolved as a mobility surface principally through the combination of an initial system of electric railways connecting a scatter of agricultural settlement settlements.
    • 2015, Ian Shennan, Antony J. Long, Benjamin P. Horton, Handbook of Sea-Level Research, John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 19:
      The plot of all our sea-level index points shows a scatter of data points that do not overlap []


  1. ^ Skeat

Further reading