1125-75;Middle Englishscatere; compare Dutchschateren to burst out laughing
1. broadcast. See sprinkle. 2. Scatter, dispel, disperse, dissipate imply separating and driving something away so that its original form disappears. To scatter is to separate something tangible into parts at random, and drive these in different directions: The wind scattered leaves all over the lawn. To dispel is to drive away or scatter usually intangible things so that they vanish or cease to exist: Photographs of the race dispelled all doubts as to which horse won. To disperse is usually to cause a compact or organized tangible body to separate or scatter in different directions, to be reassembled if desired: Tear gas dispersed the mob. To dissipate is usually to scatter by dissolving or reducing to small atoms or parts that cannot be brought together again: He dissipated his money and his energy in useless activities.
1154, possibly a northern Eng. variant of M.E. schateren (see shatter), reflecting Norse influence. Scatterbrain is first recorded 1790. Scattershot (adj.) is attested from 1961, fig. use of term for a kind of gun charge meant to broadcast the pellets when fired.