v. scat·tered, scat·ter·ing, scat·ters
1. To cause to separate and go in different directions: a dog scattering a flock of pigeons.
a. To distribute (something) loosely; strew: Books were scattered across the floor.
b. To strew something over (a surface): The field was scattered with rocks.
3. To diffuse or deflect (radiation or particles).
4. Baseball To allow (hits or walks) in small numbers over several innings. Used of a pitcher.
To separate and go in different directions; disperse: The crowd scattered when it started to rain.
1. The act of scattering or the condition of being scattered.
2. Something scattered: "Outside of Paris, in the middle of a large field, was a scatter of brick buildings" (Lorrie Moore).
[Middle English scateren, perhaps from northern dialectal alteration of Old English *sceaterian.]
Synonyms: scatter, disperse, dissipate, dispel
These verbs mean to cause a mass or aggregate to separate and go in different directions. Scatter refers to loose or haphazard distribution of components: "He had scattered the contents of the table-drawer in his search for a sheet of paper" (Edith Wharton).
Disperse implies the complete breaking up of the mass or aggregate: "only a few industrious Scots perhaps, who indeed are dispersed over the face of the whole earth" (George Chapman).
Dissipate suggests a reduction to nothing: "The main of life is ... composed ... of meteorous pleasures which dance before us and are dissipated" (Samuel Johnson).
Dispel suggests driving away or off by or as if by scattering: "But he ... with high words ... gently raised / Their fainting courage, and dispelled their fears" (John Milton).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.