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Etymology 1[edit]

From smatter +‎ -ing.


smattering (countable and uncountable, plural smatterings)

  1. 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,[1]
      [] 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,[2]
      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,[3]
      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,[4]
      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 []
  2. 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,[5]
      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,[6]
      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,[7]
      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.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English smateringe, smattrynge, equivalent to smatter +‎ -ing.



  1. present participle of smatter