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    split-screen (adj.) — spray-paint (n.)

    split-screen (adj.)

    1949 in television production, from noun use (1946); see split (adj.) + screen (n.).ETD split-screen (adj.).2

    split-second (n.)

    1884, originally the name of a type of stopwatch with two second hands that could be stopped independently. The meaning "a fraction of a second" is from 1912; see split (adj.) + second (n.1); the adjectival meaning "occurring in a fraction of a second" is attested from 1946.ETD split-second (n.).2

    splitter (n.)

    1640s, "one who or that which splits," agent noun from split (v.). Specifically as "one who makes fine distinctions" in argument, etc., by c. 1700 (to split hairs "make overnice distinctions" is implied by 1670s); especially in reference to a tendency in classification of species in biology, by 1887, in Darwin, who opposed them to lumpers.ETD splitter (n.).2

    splosh (v.)

    1889, in Farmer, who calls it "A New England variant of splash," ultimately imitative of the sound. Perhaps influenced by splish-splosh "sound made by feet walking through wet" (1881). Also compare splodge "trudge or plod through water or mud" (1859), sploshy "sloppy" (1838). Related: Sploshed; sploshing. As a noun from 1857.ETD splosh (v.).2

    splotch (n.)

    c. 1600, "a broad, ill-defined spot," perhaps a blend of spot, blot, and/or botch. Old English had splott "spot, blot; patch of land." Related: Splotchy "marked with splotches" (1863); splotchiness. As a verb from 1650s.ETD splotch (n.).2

    splurge (v.)

    by 1843, "make an ostentatious display, put on a splurge" (in the older sense of the noun), from splurge (n.). Thornton's "American Glossary" has an 1848 citation defining splurge (v.) as "to expatiate at large, to appeal to broad and general principles." The meaning "spend extravagantly" is attested by 1934. Related: Splurged; splurging.ETD splurge (v.).2

    splurge (n.)

    1828, "blustering or ostentatious display," American English, a word of uncertain origin; originally among the class of words considered characteristic of "Western" (at that time meaning "Kentucky") dialect. Perhaps suggested by splash and surge. The meaning "extravagant indulgence in spending" is recorded from 1928.ETD splurge (n.).2

    splutter (n.)

    1670s, "bustle, confusion, noise, fuss," perhaps a variant of sputter, intensified by the consonant cluster of splash, splatter, etc.ETD splutter (n.).2

    splutter (v.)

    "talk hastily and confusedly," 1728, from splutter (n.). Related: Spluttered; spluttering.ETD splutter (v.).2


    half-alien character in the "Star Trek" U.S. entertainment franchise, developed and named 1964 by series creator Gene Roddenberry, who later said he was searching for an alien-sounding word and not thinking of U.S. physician and child-care specialist Benjamin M. Spock (1903-1998), whose name is of Dutch origin.ETD Spock.2

    The doctor wrote the enormously popular "Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" (1946) and is the source of the first element in Spock-marked (1967), defined in OED as "(Adversely) affected by an upbringing held to be in accordance with the principles of Dr. Spock ...."ETD Spock.3


    in reference to a fine sort of porcelain, 1869, named for the first maker of it, Josiah Spode (1754-1827), potter in Stoke-on-Trent, England.ETD Spode.2

    spodomancy (n.)

    "divination by means of ashes," 1836, from Greek spodos "wood ashes, embers," a word of uncertain origin, + -mancy "divination by means of." Related: Spodomantic. Compare spodium "powder from the ashes of ivory or other substance used medicinally (late 14c.), from Medieval Latin.ETD spodomancy (n.).2

    spoil (v.)

    c. 1300, spoilen, "strip (someone) violently of clothes, strip a slain enemy," from Anglo-French espoiller, Old French espoillier, espillier "strip, plunder, pillage" and directly from Latin spoliare "strip, uncover, lay bare; strip of clothing, rob, plunder, pillage," a verb from spolia, plural of spolium "arms taken from an enemy, booty;" originally "hide, skin stripped from a killed animal," from Proto-Italic *spolio- "skin, hide" (from PIE *spol-yo-, probably from a root *spel- (1) "to split, to break off;" see spill (v.)) on the notion of "what is split off." Compare despoil.ETD spoil (v.).2

    It is attested from late 14c. in English as "strip with violence, rob, pillage, plunder (a place), dispossess; impoverish with excessive taxation." It was used c. 1400 as the verb to describe Christ's harrowing of Hell.ETD spoil (v.).3

    It is recorded by late 14c. as "divest or deprive (someone or something) of an essential quality." The sense of "destroy, ruin, damage so as to render useless" is from 1560s; that of "to over-indulge" (a child, etc.) is from 1640s (implied in the past-participle adjective spoiled). The intransitive sense of "become tainted or unsavory, go bad, lose freshness" is from 1690s. Spile represents a 19c. dialectal pronunciation. Slang spoiling for (a fight, etc.), "pining for, longing for" is from 1865, American English, from notion that one will "spoil" if he doesn't get it.ETD spoil (v.).4

    spoiled (adj.)

    "over-indulged, injured in character by excessive lenience," 1640s, past-participle adjective from spoil (v.). Earlier it meant "pillaged" (mid-15c.), "impaired, defective" (1590s).ETD spoiled (adj.).2

    spoil (n.)

    "booty, goods captured in time of war, that which is forfeit to a conqueror," also "the act of ravaging," c. 1300, spoile (often in plural spoils), from spoil (v.) or else from Old French espoille "booty, spoil," from the verb in French, and in part from Latin spolium (usually plural, spolia). Also from the Latin noun are Spanish espolio, Italian spoglio, Welsh ysbail.ETD spoil (n.).2

    The transferred sense of "that which has been acquired by special effort" is from 1750. Spoil or spoils has stood cynically for "patronage and emoluments of public office" since at least 1770; the spoils system in U.S. politics is so called by late 1834 and popularly was associated with the administration (1829-1837) of President Andrew Jackson. The notion is "to the victor belongs the spoils," from a prominent speech in Congress by U.S. Sen. William L. Marcy of New York, defending the practice. Of the politicians of his state, he said:ETD spoil (n.).3

    (The quote often is wrongly attributed to Jackson.)ETD spoil (n.).4

    spoilage (n.)

    1590s, "act or fact of plundering," a sense now obsolete; see spoil (v.) + -age. By 1816 as "action of spoiling;" by 1928 in U.S. trade and government publications as "deterioration or decay of foodstuffs."ETD spoilage (n.).2

    spoiler (n.)

    c. 1400, "one who robs or plunders," agent noun from spoil (v.). The meaning "one who mars another's chance at victory" is attested from 1950 in U.S. in sports, by 1957 in politics; perhaps extended from boxing, where spoiler as "inferior fighter whose tactic is to disrupt an opponent's style" is attested by 1936. The meaning "information about the plot of a movie, etc., which might 'spoil' it for one who has not seen it" is attested by 1982.ETD spoiler (n.).2

    The aeronautics sense is from 1928, so called because the flap thwarts the "lift" on the plane; the word was transferred to structures serving a similar purpose on speedboats (1957) and motor vehicles (1963). A spoilsman (1850) in U.S. history was an advocate or beneficiary of the spoils system.ETD spoiler (n.).3

    spoil-sport (n.)

    "one who hinders enjoyment," 1786, from the verbal phrase (attested by 1711) in reference to one who "ruins" the "fun;" see spoil (v.) + sport (n.). Compare Chaucer's letgame "hinderer of pleasure" (late 14c.), with obsolete verb let "hinder, prevent, stop" (see let (n.)). Another old word for it was addle-plot "person who spoils any amusement" (1690s; see addle). Also compare spoil-paper (n.) "petty author, scribbler" (1610s). Grose (1788) has spoil pudding (n.), "A parson who preaches long sermons, keeping his congregation in church till the puddings are over done."ETD spoil-sport (n.).2

    spoke (n.)

    "bar or rod inserted in the hub of a wheel to support the rim," Middle English spoke, spake, from Old English spaca "spoke of a wheel, radius," related to spicing "large nail," from Proto-Germanic *spaikon (source also of Old Saxon speca, Old Frisian spake, Dutch spaak, Old High German speicha, German speiche "spoke"), a word of uncertain origin, perhaps from PIE *spei- "sharp point" (see spike (n.1)). Also extended to the rungs of ladders, and to a bar placed in the wheel of a vehicle to keep it from rolling (1580s, figurative).ETD spoke (n.).2

    spoken (adj.)

    "uttered, oral" (as opposed to written), 1837, past-participle adjective from speak (v.). By 1865 as "not sung."ETD spoken (adj.).2


    in compounds, "speaking" (in a specified way), late-15c. (fair-spoken); common from 17c.; from past participle of speak (v.).ETD -spoken.2

    spokesman (n.)

    1510s, "an interpreter;" 1530s as "person who speaks for another or others." An irregular formation from spoke, past tense of speak (actually a back-formation from spoken) + man (n.). Perhaps it was formed on analogy of craftsman. Spokeswoman is attested from 1650s; spokesperson is by 1972 (OED calls it a "manufactured substitute"); spokesmodel is attested by 1990. Middle English had speke-man "spokesman" (early 14c., late 12c. as a surname, Nigello Spakeman).ETD spokesman (n.).2

    spoliative (adj.)

    "tending to take away or diminish," 1815, from spoliat-, past-participle stem of Latin spoliare "to plunder, rob" (see spoil (v.)) + -ive.ETD spoliative (adj.).2

    spoliation (n.)

    "robbery, plunder, loot, theft," c. 1400, spoliacioun, Anglo-French esploiacion, from Latin spoliationem (nominative spoliatio) "a robbing, plundering, pillaging," noun of action from past-participle stem of spoliare "to plunder, rob" (see spoil (v.)). Related: Spoliator; spoliatory. The Roman spolarium was a room off an amphitheater where the bodies of slain gladiators were stripped of arms and armor.ETD spoliation (n.).2

    spondee (n.)

    "metrical foot consisting of two long syllables," late 14c., from Old French spondee (14c.), from Latin spondeus, from Greek spondeios (pous), the name of the meter originally used in chants accompanying libations, from spondē "solemn libation, a drink-offering," related to spendein "make a drink offering," from PIE root *spend- "to make an offering, perform a rite," hence "to engage oneself by a ritual act" (source also of Latin spondere "to engage oneself, promise," Hittite shipantahhi "I pour out a libation, I sacrifice"). Related: Spondaic, of verses or lines, "composed of spondees" (1722); spondaical (c. 1600); Puttenham (1589) has spondiac.ETD spondee (n.).2

    spondulicks (n.)

    "money, cash," 1856, American English slang, variously spelled, a word of unknown origin. Century Dictionary says originally it meant paper money. It is sometimes said to be from Greek spondylikos, from spondylos, a seashell used as currency (the Greek word means literally "vertebra"). "[U]sed by Mark Twain and by O. Henry and since then adopted into British English" [Barnhart], where it seems to have survived after fading in the U.S.ETD spondulicks (n.).2

    spondylitis (n.)

    "inflammation of the vertebrae," 1837, Modern Latin; see spondylo- "of the vertebrae" + -itis "inflammation." Related: Spondylitic. Spondylalgia is "pain in the spine."ETD spondylitis (n.).2

    spondyle (n.)

    also spondyl, "a vertebra, a joint of the spine," late 14c., spondile, from Old French spondyle (14c.), from Latin spondylus, from Greek spondylos "vertebra" (see spondylo-). More generally from 1640s, "a joint, a joining of two pieces." Related: Spondylous.ETD spondyle (n.).2


    before vowels spondyl-, combining form meaning "vertebrae," from Greek spondylos "a vertebra," in plural "the backbone," variant of sphondylos, a word of uncertain origin.ETD spondylo-.2

    spondylolisthesis (n.)

    1858, coined in German (1853), medical Latin, from Greek spondylos (see spondylo-) + Greek oliothesis "dislocation, slipping."ETD spondylolisthesis (n.).2

    spondylosis (n.)

    "ankylosis of the spine," 1885; see spondylo- "vertebrae" + -osis.ETD spondylosis (n.).2

    sponge (n.)

    Old English sponge, spunge, "absorbent and porous part of certain aquatic organisms," from Latin spongia "a sponge," also "sea animal from which a sponge comes," from Greek spongia, which is related to spongos "sponge," which is of unknown origin; Beekes calls it "an old Wandewort." "Probably a loanword from a non-IE language, borrowed independently into Greek, Latin and Armenian in a form *sphong-" [de Vaan]. The Latin word is the source of Old Saxon spunsia, Middle Dutch spongie, Old French esponge, Spanish esponja, Italian spugna.ETD sponge (n.).2

    In English the word is used in reference to the marine animal from 1530s; of any sponge-like substance from c. 1600. Figurative use in reference to one who absorbs without discrimination is by c. 1600. The meaning "one who persistently and parasitically lives on others" is by 1838 (compare the verb, and see sponger).ETD sponge (n.).3

    To throw in the sponge "quit, submit" (1860) is from prizefighting, in reference to the sponges used to cleanse the faces of combatants between rounds (compare later throw in the towel). Sponge-cake, light and sweet, is attested by 1801, so called for its substance.ETD sponge (n.).4

    sponge (v.)

    late 14c., spongen, "to soak up with a sponge," also (transitive) "to cleanse or wipe with a sponge," from sponge (n.) and perhaps in part from Latin spongiare. The intransitive sense "dive for sponges, gather sponges where they grow" is from 1881. Related: Sponged; sponging.ETD sponge (v.).2

    The slang sense of "deprive someone of (something) by sponging" is by 1630s; the intransitive sense of "live in a parasitic manner, live at the expense of others" is attested from 1670s (to live upon the sponge "live parasitically" is by 1690s); sponger (n.) in reference to "one who persistently lives parasitically on others" also is from 1670s. Originally the victim was the sponge (1620s), because that person was being "squeezed." Sponge (n.) in a general sense of "object from which something of value may be extracted" is by 1600s. Sponge (n.) in reference to the sponger is by 1838 and reverses the older sense.ETD sponge (v.).3

    sponger (n.)

    1670s, "parasitical dependent," agent noun from sponge (v.) in the figurative sense. As a job on a cannon crew, one who uses a sponge to clean the weapon after discharge, it is recorded by 1828.ETD sponger (n.).2

    spongy (adj.)

    "soft, elastic," 1530s, in reference to morbid tissue, from sponge (n.) + -y (2). Of hard material (especially bone) "open, porous," 1590s. Related: Sponginess. Middle English had spongious "sponge-like in nature" (late 14c.), from Latin.ETD spongy (adj.).2

    spongiform (adj.)

    "resembling a sponge, sponge-like," 1774, from Latin spongia "sponge" (see sponge (n.)) + forma "form, shape" (see form (n.)).ETD spongiform (adj.).2

    sponsor (n.)

    1650s, in a Christian context, "a godparent, one who binds himself or herself at a child's baptism to guarantee a religious education," from Late Latin sponsor "sponsor in baptism," in classical Latin "a surety, guarantee, bondsman," from sponsus, past participle of spondere "give assurance, promise solemnly," from Proto-Italic *spondejo- "to pledge," literally "to libate many times," from PIE *spondeio- "to libate" (source also of Hittite ishpanti- "to bring a fluid sacrifice, pour;" Greek spendein "make a drink offering," spondē "libation, offering of wine;" compare spondee).ETD sponsor (n.).2

    The general sense of "one who binds himself to answer for another and be responsible for his conduct" is by 1670s. The sense of "person who pays toward the cost of a radio (or, after 1947, television) broadcast" is recorded by 1931. Related: Sponsorial. From the same Latin verb come spouse, correspond, respond, despond.ETD sponsor (n.).3

    sponsor (v.)

    1882, "to favor or support," from sponsor (n.). The commercial broadcasting sense is from 1931. The legislative sense of "promote or support" a bill, etc., is by 1961. In reference to pledges of money to persons in fund-raising activities, by 1967. Related: Sponsored; sponsoring.ETD sponsor (v.).2

    sponsorship (n.)

    "state of being a sponsor," 1753, from sponsor (n.) + -ship.ETD sponsorship (n.).2

    spontaneous (adj.)

    1650s, of actions, "occurring without external stimulus, proceeding from an internal impulse," from Late Latin spontaneus "willing, of one's free will," formed from the Latin phrase (sua) sponte "of one's own accord, willingly," from ablative of *spons (attested in the genitive singular, spontis) "will, volition," a word of uncertain origin. De Vaan writes that some suggest it is from the root of spin (v.), "but this is only based on the similar shape; semantically, this derivation is hard to defend." Related: Spontaneously; spontaneousness. Earlier was spontaneal (c. 1600), now obsolete.ETD spontaneous (adj.).2

    Of persons, "acting voluntarily and naturally," by 1732 (Berkeley). It was used earlier of persons and characters, with a sense of "acting of one's own accord" (c. 1200). Of utterances, by 1856. Spontaneous combustion "a taking fire from conditions inherent in the substance" is attested by 1790 in chemistry. Spontaneous generation "development of living organisms from non-living matter" is attested from 1650s.ETD spontaneous (adj.).3

    spontaneity (n.)

    "spontaneous character or quality," 1650s, from French spontanéité or a native formation from spontaneous + -ity.ETD spontaneity (n.).2

    spoof (n.)

    1889, "a hoax, deception," from spouf (1884), name of a game invented or revived by British comedian Arthur Roberts (1852-1933). The specific sense of "a parody, satirical skit or play" is recorded by 1920, from verb in this sense (1914).ETD spoof (n.).2

    spoof (v.)

    1889, "to hoax, deceive, trick;" from 1914 as "to parody, make foolish by means of satire;" see spoof (n.). The meaning "use false information to deceive a radar system" is by 1972. Related: Spoofed; spoofing; spoofery.ETD spoof (v.).2

    spook (v.)

    1867, "walk or act like a ghost, play the spook," a sense now rare or obsolete, from spook (n.). The transitive meaning "frighten and unnerve" is from 1935; the intransitive meaning "become frightened" is by 1928. Related: Spooked; spooking.ETD spook (v.).2

    spook (n.)

    1801, "spectre, apparition, ghost;" first attested in a comical dialect poem, credited to "an old Dutch man in Albany" and printed in Vermont and Boston newspapers, which credited it to Springer's Weekly Oracle in New London, Conn.ETD spook (n.).2

    The word is from Dutch spook, from Middle Dutch spooc, spoocke "a spook, a ghost," from a common Germanic source (German Spuk "ghost, apparition, hobgoblin," Middle Low German spok "spook," Swedish spok "scarecrow," Norwegian spjok "ghost, specter," Danish spøg "joke"), a word of unknown origin.ETD spook (n.).3

    OED finds "No certain cognates." According to Klein's sources, possible outside connections include Lettish spigana "dragon, witch," spiganis "will o' the wisp," Lithuanian spingu, spingėti "to shine," Old Prussian spanksti "spark." Century Dictionary writes "There is nothing to show any connection with Ir. puca, elf, sprite ...."ETD spook (n.).4

    The word also entered American English by 1830 as spuke, shpook, at first in the German-settled regions of Pennsylvania, via Pennsylvania Dutch Gschpuck, Schpuck, from German Spuk.ETD spook (n.).5

    Meaning "superstition" is by 1918; as "superstitious person" perhaps by 1901. In 1890 a less refined word for a spiritualist or medium was spookist. Spooktacular, a pun on spectacular, is by 1945. Spook show meaning “frightening display” is by 1880, as “popular exhibition of legerdemain, mentalism or staged necromancy” by 1910. Spook house “abandoned house” is by 1857, as “haunted house” by 1866.ETD spook (n.).6

    The sense "Black person" is attested by 1938, originally in African-American slang and not typically used with a sense of disparagement, nor considered an offensive word. Black pilots trained at Tuskegee Institute during World War II called themselves the Spookwaffe (a play on Luftwaffe):ETD spook (n.).7

    The word was used earlier in aeronautic jargon to mean “novice pilot” (1939), which might also have influenced this particular use.ETD spook (n.).8

    The derogatory racial sense of "Black person" is attested from 1945, U.S., originally in hep-cat slang and defined specifically as "frightened negro" (compare spooky for sense development), used generally as a disparaging term for a Black person by 1953.ETD spook (n.).9

    It is also attested as "a white jazz musician" by 1939, and as a disparaging term for a white person by 1947, possibly 1942, in the works of Nelson Algren (whose works also include the term used for black characters.) Green's Dictionary of Slang also proffers it as a slur for Italians and for Chinese/Vietnamese, though his examples might be attributable to other senses of the word.ETD spook (n.).10

    The meaning "undercover agent" is attested from 1942. In student slang, a spook could be an unattractive girl (ca. 1942), or a quiet, introverted student similar to a nerd (ca. 1945).ETD spook (n.).11

    spooky (adj.)

    1854, "frightening;" by 1889, "easily frightened," from spook (n. or v.) + -y (2). Related: Spookily; spookiness. Alternative spookish is by 1847 (American English) as "like a ghost."ETD spooky (adj.).2

    Spooky action(s) at a distance, a term used by Albert Einstein for what is now called "quantum entanglement," is by 1971, translating the original German spukhafte Fernwirkung.ETD spooky (adj.).3

    spool (v.)

    "wind as a spool, wind spools," c. 1600, from spool (n.). Related: Spooled; spooling; spooler (1550s).ETD spool (v.).2

    spool (n.)

    early 14c., spole, "weaver's bobbin, cylinder with a projecting disk at one end for winding thread upon," from Old North French spole, espole "a spool" (13c.) and directly from Middle Dutch spoele "a spool," from Proto-Germanic *spolon (source also of Norwegian and Swedish spole, Old High German spuola, German Spule "a spool, bobbin"), from PIE root *spel- (1) "to cleave, split" (see spoil (v.)). General use, for any cylindrical object upon which something is wound, is by 1864.ETD spool (n.).2

    spoon (n.)

    Middle English spon, from Old English spon "chip, sliver, shaving, splinter of wood" (a sense now obsolete), from Proto-Germanic *spe-nu- (source also of Old Norse spann, sponn "chip, splinter," Swedish spån "a wooden spoon," Old Frisian spon, Middle Dutch spaen, Dutch spaan, Old High German span, German Span "chip, splinter"), formerly said to be from PIE *spe- (2) "long, flat piece of wood" (source also of Greek spathe "spade," also possibly Greek sphēn "wedge," but see spheno-).ETD spoon (n.).2

    In Middle English also "a roofing-shingle." As the word for a type of eating utensil consisting of a bowl or concave part and a handle, c. 1300 in English (in Old English such a thing might be a metesticca). This sense is supposed to be from Old Norse sponn, which meant "spoon" as well as "chip, tile." The development of the eating utensil sense is specific to Middle English and Scandinavian, though Middle Low German spon also meant "wooden spatula."ETD spoon (n.).3

    To be born with a silver spoon in one's mouth "in affluence" is from at least 1719 (Goldsmith, 1765, has: "one man is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and another with a wooden ladle").ETD spoon (n.).4

    spoonful (n.)

    "amount that can be held in a spoon, as much as a spoon contains," c. 1300, sponeful, from spoon (n.) + -ful.ETD spoonful (n.).2

    spoon (v.)

    1715, "to take up or dish out with a spoon," from spoon (n.). The meaning "court, flirt sentimentally" is recorded by 1831, a back-formation from spoony (adj.) "soft, silly, weak-minded, foolishly sentimental." The meaning "lie close to," as two stacked spoons (with the face of one to the back of the other) is by 1870 (in a reminiscence of survival in Andersonville in the American Civil War); to lie spoon-fashion is attested by 1814. Related: Spooned; spooning.ETD spoon (v.).2

    spoonbill (n.)

    large grallatorial bird, 1670s, from spoon (n.) + bill (n.2); after Dutch lepelaar (from lepel "spoon").ETD spoonbill (n.).2

    spoon bread (n.)

    also spoonbread, spoon-bread, baked dish originating in the U.S. South, by 1887 (as corn spoon bread by 1855), from spoon (n.) + bread (n.). Other early names given for it include batter-bread, egg-bread.ETD spoon bread (n.).2

    spoonerism (n.)

    involuntary transposition of sounds in two or more words (such as "shoving leopard" for "loving shepherd," "half-warmed fish" for "half-formed wish," "beery work speaking to empty wenches," "sew these ladies to their sheets," etc.), by 1892, but according to OED in use at Oxford as early as 1885.ETD spoonerism (n.).2

    It is a reference to the Rev. William A. Spooner (1844-1930), the genial but notoriously absent-minded don, who was a popular dean and later long-time warden of New College, Oxford, and who was noted for such disfigures of speech. He is said to have admitted to a few of them but disliked the reputation. Most of the best ones probably are apocryphal. Similar to Marrowsky, but a different thing from malapropism or Goldwynism.ETD spoonerism (n.).3

    spoon-feed (v.)

    "to feed (someone) with a spoon," 1610s, from spoon (n.) + feed (v.). The figurative sense is attested by 1864. Related: Spoon-fed; spoon-feeding.ETD spoon-feed (v.).2

    spoony (adj.)

    1812, "soft, silly, weak-minded;" by 1832 especially as "foolishly sentimental, weakly fond;" with -y (2) + spoon (n.) in a slang sense of "silly person, simpleton," attested by 1799. This figurative use of the eating-utensil word perhaps is based on the notion of shallowness or of feeding infants. Also compare, from mid-19c., the spoons "sentimental fondness;" to be spoons with or on (someone) "be sentimentally in love with." Spoon (v.) in the related sense seems to be a back-formation. Related: Spoonily; spooniness.ETD spoony (adj.).2

    spoor (n.)

    "track, trace," of a wild animal, especially a hunted one, 1823, used originally by travelers and settlers in South Africa, from Afrikaans spoor, from Dutch spoor, from Middle Dutch spor, which is cognate with Old English spor "footprint, track, trace," from Proto-Germanic *spur-am, from PIE *spere- "ankle" (see spurn).ETD spoor (n.).2

    sporadic (adj.)

    1680s, "separate, single, scattered," from Medieval Latin sporadicus "scattered," from Greek sporadikos "scattered," from sporas (genitive sporados) "scattered, dispersed," from spora "a sowing" (see spore). Originally a medical term, of outbreaks of disease, "occurring in scattered instances;" the general sense of "scattered, dispersed" is by 1813; the meaning "happening at wide or irregular intervals" is recorded by 1847. Related: Sporadical (1650s); sporadically.ETD sporadic (adj.).2

    sporangium (n.)

    in botany, "spore-case, a case containing spores," 1821, Modern Latin (plural sporangia), from Greek spora "spore" (see spore) + angeion "vessel" (see angio-). Related: Sporangial. A small one is a sporangiolum.ETD sporangium (n.).2

    spore (n.)

    "reproductive body in flowerless plants corresponding to the seeds of flowering ones," 1836, from Modern Latin spora, from Greek spora "a seed, a sowing, seed-time," related to sporas "scattered, dispersed," sporos "a sowing," according to Watkins from PIE *spor-, variant of root *sper- "to spread, sow" (see sparse).ETD spore (n.).2

    spork (n.)

    1909, from spoon (n.) + fork (n.).ETD spork (n.).2


    before vowels spor-, word-forming element used from late 19c. in science and meaning "spore," from Greek spora "a seed, a sowing," related to sporas "scattered, dispersed," sporos "sowing" (according to Watkins from PIE *spor-, variant of root *sper- "to spread, sow;" see sparse).ETD sporo-.2

    sporophyte (n.)

    1872, from sporo- + -phyte.ETD sporophyte (n.).2

    sporran (n.)

    furred leather pouch hanging from the belt in front of the kilt in Highland costume, 1753, sparren, from Gaelic sporan, Irish sparan "purse," a word of uncertain origin. Familiarized early 19c. by Walter Scott.ETD sporran (n.).2

    sporting (adj.)

    c. 1600, "playful, engaging in diversion," present-participle adjective from sport (v.). It is attested by 1799 as "characterized by conduct constant with that of a sportsman," as in sporting chance, which is attested by 1893 in reference to attempts to distinguish hunting from slaughter in the fur seal trade. Sporting man, one interested in open-air sports, is by 1873, but the sense deteriorated to reefer to inferior or mercenary sportsmen or to gamblers and wagerers. Sporting woman in mid-20c. American English was a euphemism for "prostitute."ETD sporting (adj.).2

    sports (n.)

    "athletic games and contests," 1590s, from sport (n.). The meaning "sports section of a newspaper" is attested by 1913. Sports fan for "enthusiast of athletic contests" is attested from 1921 (see fan (n.2)). Sports-writer is by 1910; the newspaper sports section is by 1919. Sports car is attested by 1914, so called for its speed and power:ETD sports (n.).2

    As an adjective, designating articles suitable for outdoor sports (hence also suitable for informal-wear), sports is attested by 1897; this is the sense in sportswear (1912), sports-coat (1906), sports-shirt (1913), etc.ETD sports (n.).3

    sport (v.)

    c. 1400, sporten, "take pleasure, enjoy or amuse oneself," from Old French desporter, deporter "to divert, amuse, please, play; to seek amusement," etymologically "carry away" (the mind from serious matters), from des- "away" (see dis-) + porter "to carry," from Latin portare "to carry" (from PIE root *per- (2) "to lead, pass over"). Compare disport (v.), which is the older form.ETD sport (v.).2

    The restricted sense of "amuse oneself by active exercise in open air or taking part in some game" is from late 15c. The meaning "display, show off, exhibit" is by 1712; specifically as "to wear" by 1778. Related: Sported; sporting.ETD sport (v.).3

    sport (n.)

    early 15c., sporte, "pleasant pastime, activity that brings amusement; joking, foolery;" a shortening of disport "activity that offers amusement or relaxation; entertainment, fun" (c. 1300), also "a pastime or game; flirtation," also pleasure taken in such activity (late 14c.); from Anglo-French disport, Old French desport, deport "pleasure, enjoyment, delight; solace, consolation; favor, privilege," which is related to desporter, deporter "to divert, amuse, please, play" (see sport (v.)), also compare disport (n.).ETD sport (n.).2

    Older sense are preserved in phrases such as in sport "in jest, by way of diversion" (mid-15c.). The meaning "game involving physical exercise" is recorded by 1520s. The sport of kings (1660s) originally was war-making. Other, lost senses of Middle English disport were "consolation, solace; a source of comfort." In 16c.-17c. it could mean "sexual intercourse, love-making."ETD sport (n.).3

    In reference to persons, sport is by 1690s in a now obsolete meaning "subject of mirth or derision, laughing-stock." The sense of "man who lives by gambling and betting on races" is by 1861; the meaning "good fellow; lively, sociable person" is attested from 1881 (as in be a sport, by 1913), perhaps suggesting sportsmanlike conduct. (Old) sport as a modern familiar form of address to a man is by 1905 in American English colloquial.ETD sport (n.).4

    sporty (adj.)

    1889, "sportsmanlike;" 1962, "in the style of a sports car," from sport (n.) or sports, + -y (2). Related: Sportily; sportiness.ETD sporty (adj.).2

    sportive (adj.)

    "frolicsome, fond of amusements," 1580s, from sport (n.) + -ive. Related: Sportively; sportiveness. Earlier was sportful "diverting, entertaining" (c. 1400), and compare sporty.ETD sportive (adj.).2

    sportscast (n.)

    1938, from sports + ending from broadcast (n.). Related: Sportscaster.ETD sportscast (n.).2

    sportsman (n.)

    "man who practices field sports" (hunting, etc.), usually for pleasure, and licitly; 1706, from sports + man (n.). Sportswoman is attested from 1754.ETD sportsman (n.).2

    sportsmanlike (adj.)

    "having the character of a sportsman, legitimate in the eyes of a sportsman," 1728, from sportsman + like (adj.).ETD sportsmanlike (adj.).2

    sportsmanship (n.)

    1745, "skill in field sports;" by 1826 as "conduct worthy of a sportsman;" from sportsman + -ship.ETD sportsmanship (n.).2

    sportswear (n.)

    also sports-wear, "clothing suitable for outdoor sports" (hence also suitable for informal-wear), 1912, from sports (n.) + wear (n.).ETD sportswear (n.).2

    spot (n.)

    c. 1200, "moral stain;" by mid-14c. as "speck, stain left by something on a surface;" probably at least in part from a variant of Old English splott "a spot, blot, patch (of land)," and partly from or related to Middle Dutch spotte "spot, speck." Other cognates are East Frisian spot "speck," North Frisian spot "speck, piece of ground," Old Norse spotti "small piece," Norwegian spot "spot, small piece of land." Likely some of these Germanic words are borrowings of some of the others, but the exact evolution is unclear.ETD spot (n.).2

    From c. 1300 as "patch or mark on the fur of an animal." The sense of "particular place, small extent of space" (on a body, etc.) is from late 14c. In general figurative use, "a blemish, defect, distinguishing mark," late 14c. Also from late 14c. as "an eruption on the skin."ETD spot (n.).3

    The meaning "short interval in a broadcast for an advertisement or announcement" is by 1937, from earlier sense of "an act's position on a bill" 1923. Preceded by a number (as in five-spot) it originally was a term for "prison sentence" of so many years (1901, American English slang). The sense in night-spot is by 1954.ETD spot (n.).4

    Colloquial phrase hit the spot "satisfy, be what is required" is by 1857. The adverbial phrase on the spot is attested by 1670s as "at once, without moving or delay;" 1680s as "in the precise place and time." Hence to be on the spot "doing just what is right and needed" (1884). To put (someone) on the spot "place in a difficult situation" is from 1928; to be in a spot "in difficulty" is by 1929. Spot check, made on a random sample, is attested by 1933; as a verb by 1944. Adverbial phrase spot on "completely right" attested from 1920.ETD spot (n.).5

    spot (v.)

    mid-13c., spoten, "to mark or stain with spots" (implied in spotted); late 14c. as "to stain, sully, tarnish," from spot (n.).ETD spot (v.).2

    The meaning "detect, catch with the eye, see and recognize," is by 1718, originally colloquial and applied to a person "marked" as criminal or suspect; the general sense is from 1860. Related: Spotting. Spotted fever is attested from 1640s, for its symptom. Spotted dick "suet pudding with currants and raisins" is attested from 1849.ETD spot (v.).3

    spotless (adj.)

    late 14c., spotles, "without flaw or blemish; pure," from spot (n.) + -less. Related: Spotlessly; spotlessness.ETD spotless (adj.).2

    spotlight (n.)

    "source of artificial light casting a narrow, relatively intense beam," also spot-light, 1875, from spot (n.) + light (n.). Originally an item of theatrical equipment; the figurative sense is attested from 1916. The verb is attested by 1907. Related: Spotlit; spotlighting.ETD spotlight (n.).2

    spotter (n.)

    1610s, "one who makes spots," agent noun from spot (v.). From 1876 in slang as "a detective," from the verb in the secondary sense of "catch with the eye;" by 1903 in the general sense of "look-out." Specifically in hunting and target practice by 1893.ETD spotter (n.).2

    spotty (adj.)

    mid-14c., spotti, "marked with spots" (of the skin, etc.), from spot (n.) + -y (2). The meaning "unsteady, irregular, uneven, without unity" is attested by 1932, "orig. and chiefly U.S." [OED]. Earlier with reference to painting (1812).ETD spotty (adj.).2

    spouse (n.)

    c. 1200, "a married person, either one of a married pair," but especially a married woman in relation to her husband, also "Christ or God as the spiritual husband of the soul, the church, etc.," and sometimes also a term of address; also "marriage, the wedded state," from Old French spous (fem. spouse) "marriage partner," variant of espous/espouse (Modern French épous/épouse), from Latin sponsus "bridegroom" (fem. sponsa "bride"), literally "betrothed," from masc. and fem. past participle of spondere "to bind oneself, promise solemnly" (from PIE *spend- "to make an offering, perform a rite;" see sponsor (n.)).ETD spouse (n.).2

    Wycliffe and other old religious writers have spousess "wife, bride," chiefly in figurative spiritual use. Spouse-breach (early 13c.) was an old name for "adultery;" spouse-breaker (early 14c.) for "adulterer."ETD spouse (n.).3

    spousage (n.)

    "marriage, wedlock; marriage festivities," mid-14c., from spouse (n.) + -age. Also compare Anglo-French esposage, Old French espousage.ETD spousage (n.).2

    spousal (n.)

    c. 1300, spousaille, "a wedding ceremony, action of marrying; wedlock, condition of being espoused," from Anglo-French spousaille, a shortening of Old French esposaille (see espousal). Earlier was spousage "marriage, wedlock, marriage festivities" (mid-14c.).ETD spousal (n.).2

    Common in Middle English, especially in spousals "the celebration of a marriage," which lingered archaic into 19c. The verbal noun spousing is by mid-13c. as "matrimony, wedlock;" c. 1300 as "wedding," hence spousing-ring "wedding ring" (mid-14c.). An earlier noun still was spoushed "marriage, the married state; spiritual union (of a virgin) with Christ" (late Old English), with -hood.ETD spousal (n.).3

    spousal (adj.)

    "pertaining to marriage," 1510s, from spousal (n.).ETD spousal (adj.).2

    spouseless (adj.)

    "having no spouse, not married," mid-15c.; see spouse + -less.ETD spouseless (adj.).2

    spout (v.)

    "issue forcibly; spit out" as a liquid, early 14c., spouten, a common Germanic word, ultimately imitative, related to Middle Dutch spoiten "to spout" (Dutch spuiten "to flow, spout"), North Frisian spütji "spout, squirt," Swedish sputa "to spout," from Proto-Germanic *sput- (from PIE *sp(y)eu- "to spew, spit;" see spew (v.)).ETD spout (v.).2

    The colloquial meaning "to talk, declaim, speak volubly" is from 1610s; the dismissive sense of "make great, lengthy speeches of little matter" is by 1756. Related: Spouted; spouting.ETD spout (v.).3

    spout (n.)

    late 14c., "pipe or tube through which liquid is poured," especially one for carrying rainwater from a roof, from spout (v.). Cognate with Middle Dutch spoit, North Frisian spütj.ETD spout (n.).2

    Of similar contrivances or conduits from c. 1400; from mid-15c. as "projection from a vessel to facilitate pouring from it." As "spout-spray" of a whale, by 1824. It was the slang term for the lift in a pawnbroker's shop (the device which took up pawned articles for storage), hence the figurative phrase up the spout "lost, hopeless, gone beyond recall" (1812).ETD spout (n.).3


    the insignia of Rome, from Latin Senatus Populusque Romanus "the Senate and People of Rome."ETD S.P.Q.R..2

    sprag (n.)

    "prop in a mine," 1841, a word of unknown origin. Century Dictionary compares dialectal Danish sprag, dialectal Swedish spragg "a spray, sprig." Transferred by 1878 to wood blocks, etc., used to brake motor vehicles. As a verb, from 1841. Related: Spragged; spragging.ETD sprag (n.).2

    spray (n.1)

    "small branch, shoot, or twig" of a tree, especially if slender and graceful, mid-13c., sprai, a word of obscure origin, but perhaps from or related to late Old English *spræg, spræc "shoot, twig" (in place-names; see sprig), and compare Danish sprag in same sense. Also a verb in Middle English, spraien, "put forth foliage or branches" (late 14c.).ETD spray (n.1).2

    spray (n.2)

    "water blown in droplets by the wind or waves," 1620s, from or related to spray (v.). In reference to any liquid dispersed in fine particles by 1750.ETD spray (n.2).2

    spray (v.)

    "throw in the form of spray, diffuse or sprinkle liquid in drops," 1520s, from Middle Dutch sprayen, from Proto-Germanic *sprewjan (source also of German sprühen "to sparkle, drizzle," Spreu "chaff," literally "that which flies about"), according to Watkins from extended form of PIE root *sper- (4) "to sow, scatter" (see sprout (v.)). Related: Sprayed; spraying.ETD spray (v.).2

    sprain (v.)

    "overstrain" a muscle or ligament, 1620s (implied in sprained), a word of uncertain origin. A connection has been suggested [Klein, Century Dictionary] to French espraindre (Old French espreindre) "to press, wring, press out," from Latin exprimere, but the sense evolution is difficult. Related: Spraining.ETD sprain (v.).2

    sprain (n.)

    "violent wrenching of the soft parts of a joint," c. 1600, a word of uncertain origin; see sprain (v.).ETD sprain (n.).2


    past tense of spring (v.).ETD sprang.2

    sprat (n.)

    small European herring, 1590s, variant of sprot (c. 1300), from Old English sprott "a small herring" (Anglo-Latin sprottus), which is of uncertain origin. According to Klein's sources, it is related to Dutch sprot and probably connected to sprout (v.). Formerly they were confused with the young of the herring. Of persons, dismissively, from c. 1600. A little one is a spratkin (1670s).ETD sprat (n.).2

    sprawl (n.)

    1719, "an act of sprawling, a sprawling posture," from sprawl (v.); meaning "straggling expansion of built-up districts into surrounding countryside" is from 1955.ETD sprawl (n.).2

    sprawl (v.)

    Middle English spraulen, "move convulsively," from late Old English spreawlian "move the arms and legs convulsively," with cognates in the Scandinavian languages (such as Norwegian sprala, Danish sprælle) and North Frisian spraweli, according to Watkins perhaps ultimately from PIE root *sper- (4) "to strew" (see sprout (v.)).ETD sprawl (v.).2

    The meaning "be spread out" is from c. 1300. In reference to persons, "spread or stretch in a careless or ungraceful manner," it is attested from 1540s (perhaps mid-15c.); of things, by 1745. Related: Sprawled; sprawling.ETD sprawl (v.).3

    sprayer (n.)

    "one who or that which sprays," by 1891, agent noun from spray (v.).ETD sprayer (n.).2

    spray-paint (n.)

    "type of paint suitable for application by air-spraying," 1897, from spray (v.) + paint (v.). A spray paint-brush, and the technology of spray-painting, are described in "The Electrical Engineer" of Jan. 20, 1893. As a verb, "paint (a surface) by means of spray-paint," by 1928 (implied in spray-painted). Related: Spray-painting.ETD spray-paint (n.).2

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