Definition of smattering in US English:


(also smatter)


  • 1A slight superficial knowledge of a language or subject.

    ‘Edward had only a smattering of Spanish’
    • ‘He could speak a smattering of Maori, or pidgin Maori, where the language is broken down and simplified, so he was given the job of interpreter.’
    • ‘With an aptitude for languages and a smattering of Italian, she'd chatter away to people, gradually getting the hang of the Liguarian dialect.’
    • ‘The entire trip, spanning a period of 118 days, enabled the couple to pick up a smattering of local languages wherever they went.’
    • ‘That our small group seemed to be the only foreigners - with barely a smattering of the language between us - in a sea of Russians mattered not at all.’
    • ‘He has a smattering of Arabic, and has knowledge of the way the Islamic people in the Gulf States and the surrounding areas act and react.’
    1. 1.1 A small amount of something.
      ‘a smattering of snow’
      • ‘It was fairly empty, with smatterings of people milling around.’
      • ‘A smattering of naturalized yellow narcissi can make a barren bit of property look like a natural wonder.’
      • ‘The clientele are older and wealthy with a few smatterings of known faces.’
      • ‘Stepping out, Moira spotted a smattering of familiar faces among the crowd.’
      • ‘The songs are very reminiscent in parts of early Floyd, with smatterings of elements of Echoes and Animals thrown in for good measure.’
      bit, small amount, little, modicum, touch, soupçon
      View synonyms


Mid 16th century: from smatter ‘talk ignorantly, prate’ (surviving in Scots), of unknown origin.