- A superficial or shallow knowledge of a subject.
- She knows a smattering of Greek, but not enough to carry on a conversation.
- 1529, Thomas More, The Supplycacyon of Soulys [The Supplication of Souls], London: W. Rastell, Book 2,
- […] he had a lytell smatterynge in the lawe: […]
- 1694, Mary Astell, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, for the Advancement of their True and Greatest Interest, London: R. Wilkin, p. 153,
- If any object against a Learned Education, that it will make Women vain and assuming, and instead of correcting, encrease their Pride: I grant, that a smattering in Learning may; for it has this effect on the Men, none so Dogmatical, and so forward to shew their Parts as your little Pretenders to Science.
- 1726, Jonathan Swift, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World [Gulliver’s Travels], London: Benjamin Motte, Volume I, Part 1, “A Voyage to Lilliput,” Chapter 2, p. 30,
- There were several of his Priests and Lawyers present, (as I conjectured by their habits) who were commanded to address themselves to me, and I spoke to them in as many Languages as I had the least smattering of, which were High and Low Dutch, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Lingua Franca; but all to no purpose.
- 1951, Sinclair Lewis, World So Wide, Chapter 2,
- He had only a mail-order smattering of music, painting; he had never read Dante or Goethe nor anything of Shakespeare except the plays on which he had been spoon-fed at Amherst […]
- A small number or amount of something.
- There’s only a smattering of people who oppose the first amendment.
- 2004, Dana Goodyear, “Westville,” The New Yorker, 12 April, 2004,
- More sophisticated dishes, like trout, with a heavy smattering of finely minced rosemary between the filets, are simple and au naturel: the trout comes with a lemon wedge, a bed of mixed greens, and the head.
- 2011, Suzanne Goldenberg, “The mission to clean up Mount Everest,” The Guardian, 24 October, 2011,
- By the standards of the 70s, when the main climbing routes were littered with discarded tents and food packets, Everest is a lot cleaner, with just a smattering of plastic bottles and sweet wrappers on the rocky plateau that is base camp.
- 2016, Teddy Greenstein, “Jim Harbaugh rates Wrigley Field atmosphere 'A+++',” Chicago Tribune, 1 November, 2016,
- He was introduced to a smattering of boos from the crowd, a sign of the presence of fans from Notre Dame and other Big Ten schools.
- (small amount): see also Thesaurus:modicum.