Spatter or Splatter – What’s the Difference?

We have all spilled something and had to take the time to clean it up. A splash of red wine on the carpet is never cause for celebration, and a splash of bleach on your hand can cause a nasty burn.

In both of these cases, a small splash is better than a large one, if we have to spill things at all. In English, the words spatter and splatter can both refer to splashes of liquid that wind up where they’re not supposed to be.

What is the Difference Between Spatter and Splatter?

In this post, I will compare splatter vs. spatter. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see them in context. Plus, I will show you a memory tool that you will find helpful next time you need to choose splatter or spatter.

When to Use Spatter

spatter versus splatterWhat does spatter mean? Spatter can be a verb or a noun.

As a verb, to spatter is to fling small drops of liquid onto something. The characteristic paint décor from the 1980s, spatter paint, is accomplished by flinging small drops of paint onto the walls to form a distinctive pattern.

For example,

  • The drywall is finished, but make sure you lay down the base coat before you spatter the walls.
  • If you spatter water into a hot pan, it will sizzle and bubble as it quickly evaporates.

As a noun, spatter can be considered a synonym for splash, but only in the context of a small splash.

For example,

  • The spatter from the frying pan was easy to clean.
  • Irma wasn’t careful while pouring the coffee, and a small spatter made its way onto the table.

Spatter is also commonly used in references to crime, where it refers to blood spatter.

  • Others, such as hair fiber analysis, carpet fiber analysis, blood spatter pattern analysis and tool mark pattern analysis, have some value, but their significance has been routinely overstated in court. –The Washington Post

When to Use Splatter

Definition of splatter definition and definition of spatter definitionWhat does splatter mean? Splatter can also be a noun or a verb. In both cases, it means almost the same thing as spatter, but it refers to a big splash instead of a small one.

A glass of spilled milk might splatter all over the floor, for instance, or brains might splatter all over a wall after a zombie is hit with a baseball bat.

For example,

  • Brittany accidentally dropped the bucket of shortening, and it splattered all over the floor.
  • Valerie splattered water all over everyone when she cannonballed into the pool.
  • The boozy blunder was captured on a Nevada Highway Patrol’s dash camera and shows a police officer getting showered with beer as dozens of brew cans explode and splatter out of their cases from the out of control 18-wheeler. –New York Post

These sentences show splatter as a noun:

  • The carton of eggs fell from the counter and made a huge splatter all over the floor.
  • The carpet still has white splotches where the bleach splatter landed.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define splatter and define spatterSince both of these words mean almost the same thing, drawing a hard line between spatter vs. splatter isn’t easy.

In general, a spatter is a small splash, while a splatter is a large splash, but when a small splash becomes a large one is up for interpretation.

Since splatter and large both contain the letter L, the distinction between the words themselves is a little easier.

Summary

Is it spatter or splatter? Spatter and splatter can both function as a noun or a verb.

  • A spatter is a small splash.
  • A splatter is a large one.
  • Spatter and splatter both mean to splash liquid on something.

In general, save spatter for splashes with small drops of liquid, and splatter for splashes with a lot of liquid.

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