December 18, 2016
smattering (noun)
\SMAT-uh-ring\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : a small amount of knowledge2 : a small scattered number
How do you use it?
"We traveled everywhere--years and years-- picking up smatterings of strange tongues, familiarizing ourselves with strange sights and strange customs, accumulating an education of a wide and varied and curious sort." (Mark Twain, _The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson_)
Are you a word wiz?

"Smattering" and a much less common verb "smatter" come from a Middle English word. What do you think that Middle English word means?

"Smattering" can be traced to the Middle English word "smateren." "Smateren" was first used in written English in the 1300s to mean "to make something dirty." By the 1400s, it had gained another meaning: "to talk idly," born from the idea that idle talk is like spattering or splashing words around like paint. The idea of spattering gave rise to the 15th century English verb "smatter," meaning "to talk about something idly" or "to have a little bit of knowledge about something." This verb gave us the noun "smattering," which first entered English in the 1500s.
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