"keep busy in a rather useless way," 1841, originally among farmers, alteration of potter (v.). Related: Puttered; puttering.
late 14c., "beast that pushes with the head;" early 15c., "one who puts or places," agent noun from put (v.). Meaning "one who throws (a stone or other heavy weight)" is by 1820. As a type of golf club with a stiff and comparatively short staff, used when the ball lies a short distance from the hole, by 1743; see putt (v.).