I hear people saying that they're "having a natter" with their friends, or 'If you want to have a natter about starting a project, give me a call!'.

On different websites there are different definition:

The Free Dictionary - to talk idly and at length; chatter or gossip
Wiktionary - To talk without purpose.
Merriam Webster - to talk about unimportant things for a long time
Dictionary.com - to talk incessantly; chatter.
Oxford Dictionaries - talk casually, especially on unimportant matters; chat
Cambridge Dictionaries - to talk continuously for a long time without any particular purpose

These sounds quite negative to my ears, even rude, but whenever I hear it get used, it's rarely for negative reasons. Also, is it informal? Some clarification would be nice, examples would be awesome!

  • 1
    The word nattering came to my attention back in the day when Spiro T. Agnew was Vice President, and he referred to his critics as "nattering naybobs of negativism"! Nice alliteration. Never forgot it. Of course the word had a negative connotation back then, at least in the way Spiro used it. As for today, I'm not so sure, though the prolix proliferation of pleonasms can be irritating. Howzzat for alliteration? Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 15:19
  • I've always used it to describe the way drunk people (especially women) keep talking and talking. Before I'm accused of misogyny, I declare myself a misanthrope, and not a misogynist!
    – David M
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 15:50
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    "nattering naybobs of negativism" (actually nabobs) was coined by Agnew (Nixon) speechwriter... William Safire. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Safire
    – Jim Mack
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 3:05

4 Answers 4


The verb forms are normally used negatively...

"What are you two nattering [on] about?"

...is more akin to wittering, prattling than chatting, talking.

The adjectival form is almost always negative...

"In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism"

...as is the gerund noun form...

"By that time their constant nattering had got to me and I ordered a taxi home to enjoy a little peace"

Only the "uninflected" noun form is usually positive...

"I just love a good natter" (Google Books claims over 4000 instances of "a good natter")

So since OP's two examples are both of that type, he needn't worry about negative connotations.


It does have a negative connotation, but people will sometimes use it in an intentionally self-deprecating manner that removes the sting. Compare to someone saying, "If you want me to talk your ear off about starting a project, give me a call".

  • I don't think OP's "project discussion" example is at all "self-deprecating". It's simply an extremely relaxed alternative to "chat", which itself is a relaxed version of "talk, discussion". The reason for using it in such contexts is to give a clear signal that you don't need to feel "nervous" about calling - any discussions will be very casual and friendly, not "inquisitorial". Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 22:55

Well "Natter" is very very similar to chat, there is nothing negative about it, but natter never implies a serious meaningful conversation. Usually natter is used to refer to casual talks with friends,colleagues, acquaintances. For example

"Montoya's incredible natural skills enable him to have a natter with the team - while clocking 200mph." Collins English Dictionary. Hey Montoya is not going to talk about solving the world's energy crisis or serious stuff when he is clocking 200miles, it could be a casual chat like " I am feeling good boys" or " This is amazing, let me see if I can go faster". Those conversations do not carry an significance, but they are just friendly statements, so it could be classified as "natter".

On the other hand if your mom is angry with you about something you did she could say "We are going to have a serious chat/talk young man/woman" she wont invite you to natter when she is furious, but it is still talking for a very long time! trust me I know it.

So you could chat with business partners, you can't natter with them, still the chat can be a long informal talk.

There is only a slim margin of difference between "natter" and "chat" both mean " long casual conversation" but the former could be an utterly worthless conversation while the latter could be casual but has some meaningfulness. it is something like "lazy and lethargy" they are hard to differentiate but they do have a subtle difference in what they mean.


It is a humorous or ironic way of saying, "if you need to talk"...

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