Hi native speakers I wanna ask about a word in English.

You know when you cook food with oil, such as frying the bacon, the oil could be heated so much that the tiny drops of it may suddenly "fly" out of the pan onto your hand and might even cause burn. What words are appropriate to describe this phenomenon/procedure that the oil drops suddenly "fly" out? "spill"? "splash"??

For example: "Oh I need gloves to protect my hands when cooking because the oil keeps spilling(or splashing) out. I don't want my hands burned."

  • 11
    I would say spitting - that is what my parents always said.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 22:20
  • 2
    @JoeBlow Which dictionary gives a single word for a requested phrase?
    – NVZ
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 17:09
  • 13
    @Joe Blow: Just for fun, why don't you explain just how you'd use a dictionary for something like this? Read it from cover to cover, maybe?
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 19:13
  • 1
    How about: "painful"
    – Benubird
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 12:14

4 Answers 4


"Spatter" is a good word for that.

Here's the definition I'm using from Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged:

To jet or spurt forth in scattered drops

This is one of the definitions for the intransitive sense of "spatter."

  • 3
    How about "splatter"?
    – yaobin
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 22:06
  • 4
    "Splatter" could also work. To me, "spatter" better captures the sense of the tiny drops of oil flying out of the pan. (By the way, the dictionary I'm looking at gives the origin of "splatter" as "probably a blend of splash and spatter.") Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 22:13
  • 4
    "Spatter" is the usual word. You can buy "spatter guard" in a cookery shop to catch the spatters before they leave the pan. "Spit" could be an alternative word.
    – Simon B
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 22:23
  • 6
    "Spatter" is what I've always used/heard. "Splatter" is what happens when you throw something into the pan full of oil -- akin to "splash".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 22:23
  • 1
    This might actually be up for a better answer over at Seasoned Advice, but I'm pretty sure spattering is the "canonical" term as far as cooking goes.
    – Sidney
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 12:46

A specific term for that is oil "spitting" which I like also because of the onomatopoeia it creates.


According to The Chambers Dictionary, in the meaning nearest to the present context, spatter is defined as "rain down or fly about", while sputter is "spit out or throw out moisture in scattered drops". I think that the latter applies equally well to hot oil or melted fat, as it does specifically to molten metal in the technical term sputter deposition. Thus the most precise word here is sputter.

  • Sputter is more about the sound. Spatter is more about the material.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 17:17
  • @PhilSweet: I don't agree. The point of sputter deposition is not to make a noise but to sputter the metal from the source to the surface to be coated. What is the source of your claim? Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 20:19
  • Yes, I know about sputter deposition. The op wanted to know about kitchen terms, and outside of the industrial process, sputter always has the connotation of noise. verb 1. make a series of soft explosive sounds, typically when being heated or as a symptom of a fault. "the engine sputtered and stopped" 2. PHYSICS deposit (metal) on a surface by using fast ions to eject particles of it from a target. noun 1. a series of soft explosive sounds, typically produced by an engine or by something heating or burning. "the sputter of the motor died away"
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 14:35

The walls near a stove are called a back-splash. Back-splash walls prevent liquids from damaging the surrounding area. In a sense you could also say splash.

A drizzle or sprinkle may be used just like with the weather. Depending on how much oil flew out of the pan.

  • 2
    This is true but "splash" is a very generic term which could equally apply to, say, oil coming out of the pan because you threw something into the pan. Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 23:34

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