1. Of a motor or engine, to emit a series of irregular, erratic popping or spitting sounds before shutting off. I got the lawnmower running, but it sputtered out before too long. The car started sputtering out while we were in the middle of the highway.
2. Of a flame, to be extinguished after emitting a few final puffs of fire. The candles all sputtered out as the breeze blew through the house. The campfire sputtered out as the rain intensified.
3. Of an action, intention, plan, etc., to gradually decrease or weaken in intensity, enthusiasm, or activity before failing or ceasing altogether. It seems like their plans to get into smartphone app development is beginning to sputter out. No, I don't have a back-up plan—I didn't expect this idea to sputter out so fast. Unfortunately, consumers' enthusiasm for our project sputtered out after we ran into so many delays.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
sputter something out
to utter something while stuttering or faltering. (As when one is physically or mentally disoriented.) She was so excited she could hardly sputter her name out. He could only sputter out a few words.
[for a flame] to go out in little puffs. The candle flame flickered and sputtered out. The fire sputtered out after midnight and we all got very cold before down.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
To make irregular spitting or popping sounds and gradually stop functioning: The motor emitted a puff of smoke and sputtered out.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.