Definition of scatter in English:



  • 1 Throw in various random directions.

    ‘scatter the coconut over the icing’
    ‘his family is hoping to scatter his ashes at sea’
    • ‘A mother whose son was shot dead by a friend marked his 21st birthday today by scattering his ashes.’
    • ‘Crack an egg onto the potatoes and scatter the cheese evenly over the surface.’
    • ‘I quickly shot up from the couch, scattering my papers all over the floor in the process, and reached the door.’
    • ‘Arrange the slices of mozzarella over the base, spread the onions on top and scatter the chestnuts, olives and thyme or oregano over them.’
    • ‘He cleansed the water, scattered consecrated herbs, and chanted ancient incantations.’
    • ‘In others, he scatters the powder more randomly so that the drawing resembles a starburst or shrapnel blast.’
    • ‘Prendergast described how Glasgow funeral directors recently scattered the unclaimed ashes they had stored since the 1950s into the Clyde.’
    • ‘A brother and sister have delayed scattering their mum's ashes in the garden of their family home while they deal with the threat of eviction.’
    • ‘The tarte is finished off by scattering crispy garlic and parsley fried breadcrumbs over the surface, and will be great either hot or cold, with slices of goat's cheese.’
    • ‘The wind picked up and scattered leaves about me.’
    • ‘She started clawing at the mattress until she broke it open and scattered the fluffy insides all over the cell.’
    • ‘His daughter, Marielle, plans to come to Scotland to scatter some of his ashes but the rest will be taken to Vietnam.’
    • ‘The super-cute shop is always inviting, with the lovely smell of roses filling the air and rose petals scattered outside the entrance.’
    • ‘If you're broadcasting seed, simply scatter it, and then cover with about 1/4 inch of fine soil or compost.’
    • ‘During Australia's national day of mourning yesterday, barbecues were organised, and surfers scattered flowers.’
    • ‘Crumble the filling over the dough and press it down into the surface, then scatter the currants evenly across the dough.’
    • ‘Because he loved sailing so much and had long dreamt of a retirement spent exploring the Mediterranean, the family scattered his ashes at sea.’
    • ‘Penstemon seed, for example, can be lightly scattered over the surface of a tray of damp compost and covered with a thin layer of compost or vermiculite.’
    • ‘His staging was awkward; he tended to limit action unnecessarily to small parts of the stage and to scatter furniture about at random.’
    • ‘The wind blowing across the river's surface scatters tiny drops of water in every direction.’
    1. 1.1[usually with adverbial]Occur or be found at intervals rather than all together.
      ‘there are many mills scattered throughout the marshlands’
      ‘a scattered mountain community’
      • ‘Minority issues or rather minority grievances are scattered all over the state.’
      • ‘How do we attack the complex problem of deprivation when poverty is scattered throughout a region rather than concentrated in one, relatively treatable area?’
      • ‘Most live on 2,300 reserves scattered across the vastness of Canada, with each reservation having an average of 500 residents.’
      • ‘Although at least the government was now in one place rather than scattered around the Loire, this also made it easier for Reynaud's opponents to concert their activities.’
      • ‘This is a landscape of woodlands, forests, reservoirs and farmsteads scattered below high moorland ridges which reach their peak at Shining Tor.’
      • ‘Peculiarly shaped rocks and hillocks having striking features lie scattered all over the earth.’
      • ‘In the first section of the tour, herbivorous animals such as deer, zebras and elephants are scattered over a dry, barren landscape.’
      • ‘Group homes and halfway houses are scattered throughout the region and are few in number.’
      • ‘While airwaves do have several slots for playing classical music, they are scattered at different times of the day and across channels.’
      • ‘Until the completion of the new institute, Queen Mary's scientists were scattered across seven different sites, which made such collaboration all but impossible.’
      • ‘The older Pekar appears, reflecting on his life in 1960s - 80s Cleveland in interview extracts scattered throughout the film.’
      • ‘Ruining the picture postcard view is more domestic refuse scattered at intervals all the way down to the watercourse.’
      • ‘They see school lunch boxes melted by the heat of the blast and roof tiles fused together, as well as the monuments scattered throughout the peace park to the victims.’
      • ‘There, concealed behind flat-topped rocks and scattered fallen trees, the warriors maintained their positions.’
      • ‘I don't know if you can hear the gunfire around me, as well as the thud of artillery, but there have been scattered gun battles, as we've been going through.’
      • ‘Even at these sites, red cedar tends to be spatially limited to discrete ritual precincts rather than scattered randomly among feature fills.’
      • ‘A few scattered editing errors are there but the overall production standards can be rated as good.’
      • ‘Paths criss-crossed over it, with benches scattered at intervals along beside them.’
      • ‘The centre will bring together facilities that at present are scattered over four locations in the garrison town.’
      • ‘There were several floatation-boards scattered along the front edge of the swimming pool.’
      fleck, stud, dot, cover, sprinkle, stipple, spot, pepper
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    2. 1.2(of a group of people or animals) separate and move off quickly in different directions.
      ‘the roar made the dogs scatter’
      • ‘Everyone scattered in different directions, fighting anyone they came to.’
      • ‘His bellow echoed through the air, sending what could have passed off for large dogs scattering in all directions.’
      • ‘The group scattered and Justin scrambled to the school.’
      • ‘Several people witnessed the shooting but scattered before police arrived.’
      • ‘The group scattered quickly and then regrouped after the flames ended.’
      • ‘Even as the three artists scatter to different corners of the globe, they're together building the shape of music to come.’
      • ‘She could hear the scampers of animals scattering.’
      • ‘Within minutes the people on the street had scattered and taken cover.’
      • ‘But the drivers scattered in different directions and officers failed to capture any of them, although all the vehicles were abandoned nearby.’
      • ‘The bell suddenly chimed, sending the girls scattering to their different assigned seats in the classroom.’
      • ‘The group scattered when police arrived, but police were able to detain 3 Thai men and 4 Russians.’
      • ‘Most scattered quickly as rain began to spill down and high winds blew.’
      • ‘After one group had enough exercise and fresh air, they would retreat to their bunkers and the next small group would scatter forth.’
      • ‘Across the streets, people scattered or dived to the ground against shuttered shop doorways as the rattle of Kalashnikov fire criss-crossed overhead.’
      • ‘Confusion and panic broke out at once, with the troops scattering in every direction.’
      • ‘Frank goes on in his article to tell of how their little group scattered.’
      • ‘Customers at the surrounding tables are looking on in horror as I send the birds scattering in their direction.’
      • ‘As the Rosary was finished a very heavy shower, sent people scattering in all directions for shelter.’
      • ‘The group scattered immediately when another group headed over to the playground.’
      • ‘As he turned down a street a group of children scattered out of his way, abandoning the patched ball that they had been playing with in the street.’
      disperse, break up, disband, separate, go in different directions, move in different directions, go separate ways
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    3. 1.3Cause (a group of people or animals) to separate and move off quickly in different directions.
      ‘he charged across the foyer, scattering people’
      • ‘Young Herbert was picking up small stones and throwing them at the sparrows twittering in the hedgerows scattering them in all directions.’
      • ‘The war of 2001 destroyed that base, scattered the group and effectively ended the umbrella role he and his associates had played.’
      • ‘Police scattered striking workers and teargas was also used to disperse a striking mob at Cyril Lord.’
      • ‘The effect was to scatter the crew in the holding area, and give the Germans something to think about while James got into position.’
      • ‘The protesters scuffled with police when officers moved in to scatter the crowd, but there were no reported injuries.’
      • ‘A mortar burst on the pavement, scattering a group of medics.’
      • ‘For a moment, Jeff's blood froze; he listened in dread as another round of shots completely scattered the remaining crowd.’
      • ‘A manta ray flashed, scattering a school of butterfly fish, silver and striped with dark gold, each moving like the pulse of a wing.’
      • ‘They shined the light every which way, scattering the bugs and mice that had not seen any light for years.’
      • ‘Like a rapid silver lure shining wildly, she breaks suddenly from the branching rock and scatters three green Chromis fish.’
      • ‘It will be the last time that these group of athletes take the field together before they are scattered to the winds of their individual sporting ambitions.’
      • ‘Enemy forces advanced rapidly into his territory, in Batticaloa and Amparai districts, scattering his fighters.’
      • ‘He faces down a bear with bow-and-arrow, scatters wolves with a slingshot, and shoots rabbits for dinner.’
      • ‘He fired several shots, and scattered the rebels, and it was owing mainly to his gallantry that the lives of the rest of the men were saved.’
      • ‘He reached down again, this time to scatter the animals, and they ran for the lakes, forests, mountains and trees.’
    4. 1.4Cover (a surface) with objects thrown or spread randomly over it.
      ‘sandy beaches scattered with driftwood’
      • ‘Beside the man, demons no longer cavorted cheerfully, in fact, the path was empty bar the sandy grit that scattered its surface.’
      • ‘Papers scattered the floor, covering every inch like a carpet.’
      • ‘A double bed in the centre of the wall in front of me was scattered with different coloured rose petals.’
      • ‘Freckles scattered my shoulders and I had some very light ones lining my cheeks.’
      • ‘The room was full of Legos and random toys scattering the ground.’
      throw, strew, toss, fling
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    5. 1.5Physics Deflect or diffuse (electromagnetic radiation or particles)
      • ‘One possibility is a powerful laser beaming from the nose of the plane to ‘melt’ a path through the air - scattering molecules so that they cause less friction.’
      • ‘Wavelengths at the blue end of the spectrum are scattered and absorbed more than those at the red end of the spectrum, so the sunlight appears to turn yellow, and then red.’
      • ‘These scatter electrons beyond the limiting angle of the objective aperture, leaving fewer to contribute to the image of that region, which thus appears dark.’
      • ‘Some of the light that is reflected from the cylinder groove is scattered, and does not re-enter the interferometer.’
      • ‘The light scattered by a particle passing through these beams is collected and focused on a photomultiplier tube.’


  • 1A small, dispersed amount of something.

    ‘a scatter of houses on the north shore’
    • ‘That decision was not made finally until the 1950s, and then it was decided that there would be just a scatter of plantations though the highlands.’
    • ‘The formula seldom changes - address by the relevant chairman, the national anthem, a scatter of adverts, a quiz and a page or two of reminiscing.’
    • ‘There was only a small scatter of other caravans and motorhomes when we arrived.’
    • ‘As soon as the office door shut with a bang, loud scatters of conversation broke into the silence.’
    • ‘There are people here, and scatters of rubbish on the ground, which stand out against the white snow.’
    • ‘All but one of the hearths Marshall found consisted of scatters of burned earth and charred animal bone.’
    • ‘They know how hard it is to appear so effortless, how well she conceals her intense reflection and labor in order to lead us into her idiosyncratic scatters of color and form.’
    • ‘She was five foot five inches tall and had a scatter of freckles across her nose.’
    • ‘This includes a scatter of lesser paintings throughout the museums, galleries, and private collections of the world.’
    • ‘It's only on paper that Shetland is part of Scotland at all - the scatter of half-empty green islands is just as close to Norway.’
    • ‘It's called a scattergram, a diagram with a scatter of points.’
    • ‘The banks are steep slides of rocks and mossy roots, pocketed with pitted red sand, driftgrass and slack alluvial soil, and stippled with a scatter of primroses and heaped heather.’
    • ‘The great pool is empty, except for a scatter of drink cans.’
    • ‘He remembers feeling exhilarated when he emerged beneath a scatter of icy stars.’
    • ‘There was another scatter of applause and a short man with a ring of red hair around his shiny pink scalp moved onto the stage.’
    • ‘My dad's uncle Johnny Boland came home and brought us this old record player and a scatter of records.’
    • ‘She looked about twenty, with light blue eyes, a light tan with a scatter of freckles over her nose and long gold locks that fell in large waves down to her lower back.’
    • ‘Years of built up scars laced a starved ribcage that displayed scatters of bruises and cuts, some of which he guesses to be only hours old.’
    • ‘On the high moors, Mesolithic nomads and reindeer herders left scatters of flints which are still found in peat fire breaks to this day.’
    • ‘Everything from delicious sausages to organic vegetables to honeys and jams were on show, luring a scatter of people to dip their hands into their pockets.’
    1. 1.1Statistics The degree to which repeated measurements or observations of a quantity differ.
      • ‘We also noted the degree of scatter in the correlation: some local authorities with comparable mortality rates have quite different rates of self reported ill health and vice versa.’
      • ‘The use of routine specimens to measure resistance may also have contributed to the observed scatter and has the potential to introduce bias.’
      • ‘Results were most variable at the lowest glucose concentration, where in some cases scatter may be related to the small sample volume used.’
      • ‘Flow cytometry showed a population of cells with slightly greater forward and side scatter than that of normal lymphocytes.’
      • ‘Our patients were obese, middle aged males with mild to moderate sleep apnoea, and there was wide scatter in all variables.’
    2. 1.2Physics The scattering of light, other electromagnetic radiation, or particles.
      • ‘Treatment may include prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses to slightly overcorrect night vision and decrease the light scatter.’
      • ‘There was considerable light scatter with each treatment, particularly at the higher fluences.’
      • ‘To date, the research team has found that 90 to 95 percent of light scatter generated is from optical properties of mitochondria.’
      • ‘Optical scatter plays a major role in stray light simulations.’


Middle English (as a verb): probably a variant of shatter.