Intermediate+ Word of the Day: shatter

shatter (verb, noun) /ˈʃætɚ/ LISTEN

To shatter means ‘to break, or to be broken, into pieces as by a blow‘, and when talking about someone’s health or nerves, shatter means ‘to weaken or destroy.’ If you shatter someone’s ideas or dreams, it means you destroy them. You probably won’t hear the noun shatter these days, as it is only used now in some dialects, but if you do, it is a fragment caused by shattering and, as you can probably imagine, it is almost always used in the plural. A more common word for such a fragment now would be a shard.

Example sentences

  • The plate shattered as it hit the floor.
  • The police officer shattered a window in order to enter the house.
  • The accident shattered Maggie's nerves.
  • When he was turned down for a part in a movie, it shattered Justin's dreams of becoming a star.
  • The floor of the potter's workshop was covered in shatters.

In pop culture

Watch the Rolling Stones performing their song “Shattered” here:

Did you know?

If someone from the UK tells you they are shattered, they don’t mean they’ve been broken into pieces, just that they are exhausted.

Other forms

shattered (adjective)


Shatter dates back to the early 14th century. It probably emerged as a variant of the Middle English verb scateren or schateren (to scatter or dash), from the Old English scaterian. It can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic root skat- (‘to smash’ or ‘to scatter’), and is related to the Old Dutch schetteren, the Low German schateren and the Albanian shkatërroj (all meaning ‘to destroy or devastate) and the Dutch schateren (to burst out laughing), as well as the English verb scatter. Shatter has been used figuratively, in reference to feelings, dreams or ideas, since it emerged. The noun comes from the verb, and was first used in the early 17th century.

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