sputter

When someone (or something) makes a soft, fast popping sound, they sputter. If you expect to win first prize in a poetry contest but don't, you might sputter, "But...but..."

When you sputter, you're often angry, surprised, or otherwise at a loss for words. You may sputter incoherent sounds, or short syllables. When you start up your dirt bike, its engine sputters too, with muted exploding sounds. This word is also a noun: "The sputter from out on the lake told me he got the old motorboat going." In physics, to sputter is to send high-energy particles onto a material, dislodging tiny particles from its surface.

Definitions of sputter
  1. verb
    spit up in an explosive manner
    synonyms: spit out, splutter
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    type of:
    cough out, cough up, expectorate, spit out, spit up
    discharge (phlegm or sputum) from the lungs and out of the mouth
  2. verb
    utter with a spitting sound, as if in a rage
    synonyms: splutter
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    type of:
    emit, let loose, let out, utter
    express audibly; utter sounds (not necessarily words)
  3. verb
    make an explosive sound
    “sputter ing engines”
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    type of:
    pop
    make a sharp explosive noise
  4. verb
    climb awkwardly, as if by scrambling
    synonyms: clamber, scramble, shin, shinny, skin, struggle
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    type of:
    climb
    move with difficulty, by grasping
  5. verb
    cause to undergo a process in which atoms are removed
    “The solar wind protons must sputter away the surface atoms of the dust”
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    type of:
    alter, change, modify
    cause to change; make different; cause a transformation
  6. noun
    the noise of something spattering or sputtering explosively
    synonyms: spatter, spattering, splatter, splattering, splutter, sputtering
    see moresee less
    type of:
    noise
    sound of any kind (especially unintelligible or dissonant sound)
  7. noun
    an utterance (of words) with spitting sounds (as in rage)
    synonyms: splutter
    see moresee less
    type of:
    utterance, vocalization
    the use of uttered sounds for auditory communication
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