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[smat-er] /ˈsmæt ər/
verb (used with object)
to speak (a language, words, etc.) with superficial knowledge or understanding.
to dabble in.
slight or superficial knowledge; smattering.
Origin of smatter
1300-50; Middle English; perhaps < Scandinavian; compare Danish, Norwegian smadre to splash, swash, Swedish smattra to clatter, rattle; compare Middle Low German smetern to chatter Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for smatter
Historical Examples
  • I must have let out a very excited gasp, 'cause Poetry said, "'smatter, Bill?"

  • The apter he is to smatter, the slower he is in making any advance in his pretences.

  • And again, not only is Polynesian easy to smatter, but interpreters abound.

    In the South Seas Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The languages of Polynesia are easy to smatter, though hard to speak with elegance.

    In the South Seas Robert Louis Stevenson
  • It blew and stormed and stormed, and the thin, nasal voice of "Rev. smatter" was utterly lost in the wind.

    The Flaming Jewel Robert W. Chambers
  • These would repeat the same foreign words or phrases; "to smatter French" being "meritorious."

  • Mrs. smatter had raised her suspicions about the adulteration of all the food on the table.

    Missy Miriam Coles Harris
  • The monotonies of Mrs. smatter and the asperities of Miss Varian for once roused little opposition.

    Missy Miriam Coles Harris
British Dictionary definitions for smatter


a smattering
(intransitive) (rare) to prattle
(transitive) (archaic) to dabble in
Derived Forms
smatterer, noun
Word Origin
C14 (in the sense: to prattle): of uncertain origin; compare Middle High German smetern to gossip
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for smatter

early 15c., "talk idly, chatter; talk ignorantly or superficially," of uncertain origin, perhaps imitative. Similar forms are found in Middle High German smetern "to chatter" and Swedish smattra "to patter, rattle," and cf. Danish snaddre "chatter, jabber," Dutch snateren, German schnattern "cackle, chatter, prattle." Related: Smattered; smattering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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