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    spread (v.) — squeaker (n.)

    spread (v.)

    late 12c., spreden, "stretch out, lay out (clothes, hide, etc.); diffuse, disseminate (beams of light, grace);" also, of groups of persons, "advance over a wide area" (intransitive); probably from Old English *sprædan "to spread, stretch forth, extend" (especially in tosprædan "to spread out," and gesprædung "spreading"), from Proto-Germanic *spreit- (source also of Danish sprede, Old Swedish spreda, Middle Dutch spreiden, Old High German and German spreiten "to spread"), according to Watkins from an extended form of PIE root *sper- (4) "to strew" (see sprout (v.)).ETD spread (v.).2

    The meaning "scatter (things), bestrew over an area" is from mid-13c. The reflexive sense of "be outspread" is from c. 1300; that of "extend, expand" is attested from mid-14c. Transitive sense of "make (something) wide" is from late 14c. As an adjective from 1510s, "extended in area." Related: Spreading.ETD spread (v.).3

    spread (n.)

    1620s, "act of spreading;" 1690s, "extent or expanse of something," from spread (v.). Middle English had the verbal noun spreding "a scattering, strewing; opening expansion" (mid-13c.).ETD spread (n.).2

    The meaning "copious meal" (that which is "spread" on the table) dates from 1822; sense of "food suitable for spreading" (butter, jam, etc.) is from 1812. The sense of "cloth used as a bed cover" is recorded from 1848, originally American English and perhaps from German or Dutch. The meaning "degree of variation" is attested from 1929; the sense of "difference between two figures" is by 1919 in economics. The meaning "ranch for raising cattle" is attested from 1927.ETD spread (n.).3

    spreadable (adj.)

    "that may be stretched, extended, or expanded," 1891, of butter, from spread (v.) + -able.ETD spreadable (adj.).2

    spread-eagle (n.)

    "representation of an eagle with body, legs, and wings displayed;" literally "splayed eagle," 1560s, a heraldic term, from past-participle adjective of spread (v.). Common on signs, flags, etc.; the colloquial term was split crow. The meaning "person secured with arms and legs stretched out" (originally to be flogged) is attested from 1785. The heraldic figure is on the seal of the United States (hence spreadeagleism "vainglorious and extravagant laudation of the United States," 1857, used in both U.S. and Britain).ETD spread-eagle (n.).2

    spreader (n.)

    late 15c., "one who sows or scatters," agent noun from spread (v.). By 1839 as "device which spreads."ETD spreader (n.).2

    spreadsheet (n.)

    1965 in computing, from spread (n.) + sheet (n.1).ETD spreadsheet (n.).2

    spree (n.)

    "a lively frolic, rowdy drinking bout," 1804, slang or colloquial, earliest in Scottish dialect works, a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps [Barnhart] an alteration of French esprit "lively wit" (see esprit). According to Klein, Irish spre seems to be a loan-word from Old Norse sprakr. Watkins proposes a possible origin as an alteration of Scots spreath "cattle raid," from Gaelic sprédh, spré, "cattle; wealth," from Middle Irish preit, preid, "booty," ultimately from Latin praeda "plunder, booty" (see prey (n.)).ETD spree (n.).2

    Anatoly Liberman (blog post Dec. 13, 2023) does not object to a Celtic origin, but points to the similar "skeleton" in spree, spark, sprinkle, Latin spargo (see sparse), and suggests "the sound group spr seems to have suggested to speakers the idea of spontaneous, unregulated growth."ETD spree (n.).3

    In Foote's comedy "The Maid of Bath" (1794) the word appears as a Scottish dialect pronunciation of spry: " 'When I intermarried with Sir Launcelot Coldstream, I was en siek a spree lass as yoursel; and the baronet bordering upon his grand climacteric;' " etc.ETD spree (n.).4

    sprig (n.)

    "shoot, twig or spray of a plant, shrub," late 14c., sprigge (late 12c. in surnames), probably from spring (n.) and from or related to Old English spræc "shoot, twig," a word of obscure origin. OED considers "doubtful" any relation to Low German sprick "dry twig."ETD sprig (n.).2

    spright (n.)

    obsolete alternative spelling of sprite used in 16c.-17c.ETD spright (n.).2

    sprightly (adj.)

    1590s, "full of spirit or vigor, brisk, lively," from spright, an early 16c. variant of spirit (n.) and also of its doublet sprite, + -ly (1). So, in the manner of a sprite, or with much spirit. The form spritely also is attested from 1590s. "Sprightly is the common spelling, the literal meaning and therefore the proper form of the word being lost from view" [Century Dictionary]. Related: Sprightliness.ETD sprightly (adj.).2

    spring (n.2)

    "a natural fountain as the place of rising of a stream or river, a flow of water rising to the surface of the earth from below," Old English spring "spring, source, sprinkling," from spring (v.) on the notion of the water "bursting forth" from the ground. Rarely used alone in Old English, it appeared more often in compounds, such as wyllspring "wellspring," espryng "water spring."ETD spring (n.2).2

    The figurative sense of "source or origin" of anything is attested from early 13c. Cognates include Old High German sprung "source of water," Middle High German sprinc "leap, jump; source of water." Spring-water is in Old English.ETD spring (n.2).3

    spring (v.)

    Middle English springen, from Old English springan "to leap, leap up, jump;" of a fountain, spring, etc., "burst forth;" also "fly up; spread, grow" (class III strong verb; past tense sprang, past participle sprungen). This is from Proto-Germanic *sprenganan (source also of Old Norse springa "burst," Old Frisian springa, Middle Dutch springhen, Dutch springen, Old Saxon and Old High German springan, German springen "jump"). This is usually said to be from PIE *sprengh-, a nasalized form of root *spergh- "to move, hasten, spring" (source also of Sanskrit sprhayati "desires eagerly," Greek sperkhesthai "to hurry"). However Boutkan is attracted to an alternative derivation from PIE root *sper- "to spread, to sow" (for which see sparse).ETD spring (v.).2

    In Middle English, it took on the role of causal sprenge, from Old English sprengan (as still in to spring a trap, etc.). The meaning "to cause to work or open," by or as by a releasing of the spring mechanism, is from 1828.ETD spring (v.).3

    The transitive meaning "announce suddenly, bring out hastily and unexpectedly" (usually with on) is from 1876. The meaning "to release" (from imprisonment) is from 1900. The slang meaning "to pay" (for a treat, etc.) is recorded from 1906.ETD spring (v.).4

    spring (n.3)

    "act of springing or leaping," late 14c., from spring (v.), as are spring (n.1) and spring (n.2). The elastic wire coil that returns to its shape when stretched is so called from early 15c., originally in clocks and watches. As a device to smooth the ride in carriages, coaches, etc., it is attested from 1660s.ETD spring (n.3).2

    spring (n.1)

    "season following winter, first of the four seasons of the year; the season in which plants begin to rise," by 1540s, a shortening of spring of the year (1520s), which is from a special sense of an otherwise now-archaic spring (n.) "act or time of springing or appearing; the first appearance; the beginning, birth, rise, or origin" of anything (see spring v., and compare spring (n.2), spring (n.3)).ETD spring (n.1).2

    The earliest form seems to have been springing time (early 14c.). The notion is of the "spring of the year," when plants begin to rise and trees to bud (as in spring of the leaf, 1520s).ETD spring (n.1).3

    The Middle English noun also was used of sunrise, the waxing of the moon, rising tides, sprouting of the beard or pubic hair, etc.; compare 14c. spring of dai "sunrise," spring of mone "moonrise." Late Old English spring meant "carbuncle, pustule."ETD spring (n.1).4

    As the word for the vernal season it replaced Old English lencten (see Lent). Other Germanic languages take words for "fore" or "early" as their roots for the season name (Danish voraar, Dutch voorjaar, literally "fore-year;" German Frühling, from Middle High German vrueje "early").ETD spring (n.1).5

    In 15c. English, the season also was prime-temps, after Old French prin tans, tamps prim (Modern French printemps, which replaced primevère 16c. as the common word for spring), from Latin tempus primum, literally "first time, first season."ETD spring (n.1).6

    As an adjective by early 18c., "pertaining to, suitable for, or occurring in spring."ETD spring (n.1).7

    Spring fever is from 1843 as "surge of romantic feelings;" earlier of a type of disease or head-cold prevalent in certain places in spring; in the older sense Old English had lenctenadle. Spring cleaning in the domestic sense is attested by 1843 (in ancient Persia, the first month, corresponding to March-April, was Adukanaiša, which apparently means "Irrigation-Canal-Cleaning Month;" Kent, p.167).ETD spring (n.1).8

    The Oriental cuisine spring roll is attested by 1943. Spring chicken "small roasting chicken" (usually 11 to 14 weeks) is recorded from 1780; its transferred sense of "young person" is recorded by 1906. Baseball spring training is attested by 1889; the phrase was used earlier of militia musters, etc.ETD spring (n.1).9

    springboard (n.)

    also spring-board, "elastic board used in vaulting, etc.," 1774, from spring (v.) + board (n.1).ETD springboard (n.).2

    springbok (n.)

    South African gazelle, 1775, spring-bock, from Afrikaans, from springen "to leap" (from Middle Dutch springhen, see spring (v.)) + bok "antelope," from Middle Dutch boc (see buck (n.1)). So called by the Dutch colonists for its agility.ETD springbok (n.).2

    springer (n.)

    mid-14c., "one who or that which leaps" (late 12c. as a surname), agent noun from spring (v.). As a type of spaniel, by 1808, so called from being used originally to rouse (that is, to "spring") game.ETD springer (n.).2


    type of firearm, 1813, named for the U.S. government armory in Springfield, Mass.ETD Springfield.2

    spring-house (n.)

    also springhouse, "small outbuilding constructed over a spring, to keep milk, meat, etc. fresh and cool, 1762, American English, from spring (n.2) + house (n.).ETD spring-house (n.).2

    springy (adj.)

    "elastic, having elasticity, like a spring," 1650s, from spring (n.3) + -y (2). Related: Springiness.ETD springy (adj.).2

    springtail (n.)

    "kind of insect which leaps by means of anal bristles forming a sort of spring," 1797; see spring (v.) + tail (n.).ETD springtail (n.).2

    springtide (n.)

    also spring-tide, 1520s, "springtime," from spring (n.1) + tide (n.) in the old sense of "period, season." The meaning "tide that arises at or soon after a full moon and is higher than usual" is from 1540s; hence figuratively "a copious flow, a large quantity" (1590s). Earlier in this sense was spring-flood (late 14c.).ETD springtide (n.).2

    springtime (n.)

    also spring-time, "the spring of the year, time of the new growth of plants," late 15c., from spring (n.1) + time (n.). Earlier was springing-time (late 14c.).ETD springtime (n.).2

    sprinkle (v.)

    "scatter drops or particles," late 14c., sprenklen (implied in sprynklid), frequentative of sprenge (see spring (v.), also see -el (3)); cognate with or influenced by Dutch sprenkelen, Low German sprenkeln, German sprenkeln; and the nouns Middle Dutch, Middle Low German sprenkel "spot, speck." These are perhaps from PIE root *(s)preg- "to jerk, scatter" (source also of Latin spargere "to scatter, sprinkle").ETD sprinkle (v.).2

    The meaning "rain lightly" is recorded by 1778. As a noun from 1640s, "an act of sprinkling;" by 1768 as "that which is sprinkled."ETD sprinkle (v.).3

    sprinkling (n.)

    c. 1400, sprenkling, "act of sprinkling" (a medicinal powder), verbal noun from sprinkle (v.). The meaning "small amount scattered here and there" is by 1590s.ETD sprinkling (n.).2

    sprinkler (n.)

    1530s, "vessel or other device for sprinkling," agent noun from sprinkle (v.). Earlier in this sense was sprinkle (n.) "a sprinkler (for holy water)," late 14c. As the name of a machine for watering roadways, by 1879.ETD sprinkler (n.).2

    sprint (v.)

    1560s, "to spring, dart" (a sense now obsolete), probably an alteration of sprenten "to leap, spring" (early 14c.), which is from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse spretta "to jump up" (cognate with Swedish spritta "to start, startle").ETD sprint (v.).2

    The meaning "run a short distance at full speed" is by 1851 (implied in sprinted). Related: Sprinting.ETD sprint (v.).3

    sprint (n.)

    "short burst of full-speed running, etc.," 1848, from sprint (v.), probably short for sprint-race (by 1836).ETD sprint (n.).2

    sprinter (n.)

    "contestant in a sprint-race, short-distance runner," 1864, agent noun from sprint (v.). Earlier was sprint-runner (1846).ETD sprinter (n.).2

    sprit (n.)

    Middle English sprete, from Old English spreot "pole, pike, spear," originally "a sprout, shoot, branch of a tree," from Proto-Germanic *sprut- (see sprout (v.)). It is cognate with Middle Dutch spriet, Middle Low German spryet, German Spriet, North Frisian sprit. The only surviving sense is the restricted nautical one of "diagonal spar from a mast used to extend and elevate a sail" is attested from 14c. Related: Spritsail "sail extended by a sprit" (mid-15c.). Also compare bowsprit.ETD sprit (n.).2

    sprite (n.)

    c. 1300, sprit, formerly also spright, a doublet of spirit (n.) in any of its then-current senses, from Old French esprit "spirit," from Latin spiritus (spirit (n.) retains the Latin form). So in Middle English and after sprite could mean "breath; the principle of life; the Holy Ghost; mind, intellect; character; mood; reason; human will," etc. Hakluyt has a well-sprighted man for one mentally gifted.ETD sprite (n.).2

    It is attested by mid-14c. specifically as "immaterial being; angel, demon, elf, fairy; apparition, ghost," also of persons felt to resemble such. Also compare sprightly.ETD sprite (n.).3

    spritz (v.)

    "to sprinkle, squirt, spray," 1917, from Yiddish or directly from German spritzen "to squirt," from Middle High German sprützen "to squirt, sprout," from Proto-Germanic *sprut- (see sprout (v.)).ETD spritz (v.).2

    Spritzer "glass of wine mixed with carbonated water" is from 1961.ETD spritz (v.).3

    sprocket (n.)

    1530s, originally a carpenters' word for a triangular piece of timber used in framing, of obscure origin. The meaning "one of the projections from the rim of a wheel that engage the links of a chain" is attested by 1750.ETD sprocket (n.).2

    sprout (v.)

    Middle English sprouten, "to spring forth; grow, shoot forth as a bud," from Old English -sprutan (in asprutan "to sprout"), from Proto-Germanic *sprut- (source also of Old Saxon sprutan, Old Frisian spruta, Middle Dutch spruten, Old High German spriozan, German sprießen "to sprout").ETD sprout (v.).2

    According to Watkins this is from PIE *spreud-, extended form of root *sper- "to strew" (perhaps also the source of Old English spreawlian "to sprawl," sprædan "to spread," spreot "pole;" Armenian sprem "scatter;" Old Lithuanian sprainas "staring, opening wide one's eyes;" Lettish spriežu "I span, I measure").ETD sprout (v.).3

    The transitive sense of "produce by sprouting" is from c. 1600. Related: Sprouted; sprouting.ETD sprout (v.).4

    sprout (n.)

    "a shoot of a plant; a twig," Middle English sprote, from Old English sprota, from the verb (see sprout (v.)). Cognate with Middle Dutch spruyte, Dutch spruite "a sprout," Old Norse sproti, German Sproß. Modern slang sense of "young person, child" is by 1934, American English.ETD sprout (n.).2

    spruce (adj.)

    "neat, smart in dress and appearance, dapper, brisk," 1580s, from spruce leather (mid-15c.), a type of leather imported from Prussia into England in the 1400s and 1500s and used there to make a popular style of jerkin that was considered smart-looking. See spruce (n.) for explanation.ETD spruce (adj.).2

    spruce (v.)

    "to make trim or neat, dress so as to present a sharp appearance," 1590s, from spruce (adj.). Since 17c. often with up. Colloquial intransitive sense of "become spruce, make oneself trim or neat" is by 1709. Related: Spruced; sprucing.ETD spruce (v.).2

    spruce (n.)

    "type of evergreen tree, spruce-fir," 1660s, from spruse (adj.) "made of spruce wood" (early 15c.), originally that imported from Prussia. It is literally "from Prussia," from Middle English Spruce, Sprws (late 14c.), unexplained alterations of Pruce "Prussia," which is from an Old French form of Prussia. A 15c. English government document has Sprusiers for "Prussians."ETD spruce (n.).2

    Spruce seems to have been a generic term for commodities brought to England from the Baltic and East by Hanseatic merchants (especially beer, boards and wooden chests, and leather). Thus the tree, which grows widely in the Baltics and Scandinavia, was believed to be particular to Prussia, which in Tudor times became figurative in England as a land of fashionable apparel and luxuries generally, thus probably spruce (adj.).ETD spruce (n.).3

    In a 17c. phrase such as spruce-boards it is difficult to say whether the sense is "of spruce" or "from Prussia."ETD spruce (n.).4

    In scientific use, as a distinct species of evergreen tree, from 1731. Nearly all pines have long, soft needles growing in groups of two (Scotch) to five (white); spruce and fir needles grow singly. Spruce needles are squarish and sharp; fir needles are short and flat. Cones of the fir stand upright; the cones of the spruce hang before they fall.ETD spruce (n.).5

    Spruce beer "beverage made from the leaves of the spruce-fir or the essence of spruce" is c. 1500.ETD spruce (n.).6

    sprucify (v.)

    "make fine, smarten," 1610s, from spruce (adj.) + -ify. Related: Sprucified.ETD sprucify (v.).2

    sprue (n.)

    "piece of metal (later plastic) attached to a cast object," 1875, earlier (1849) "channel through which metal is poured into a mold;" a word of unknown origin.ETD sprue (n.).2

    spruik (v.)

    "deliver a public speech," 1902, Australia and New Zealand slang, of unknown origin.ETD spruik (v.).2


    past participle of spring (v.) or in at least one case spring (n.3). In Middle English, of knights, "dubbed, promoted" (early 13c.), on the notion of a "rise" in status. Also of news, "to spread," hence "to be celebrated." In modern use in various other senses including: "arisen" (1570s); "cracked" (1590s); "made to fly up" (1590s); "tipsy, drunk" (1826, colloquial); in reference to poetic meter counting only the stresses (1877); "provided with springs" (1884); "announced unexpectedly" (1966).ETD sprung.2

    spry (adj.)

    1746, "active," as in leaping or dashing, "nimble, vigorous, lively," dialectal or provincial, perhaps a shortening and alteration of sprightly [Barnhart], or from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Norse sprækr, dialectal Swedish sprygg "brisk, active"), from Proto-Germanic *sprek-, perhaps from PIE root *sper- "to spread, to sow" (see sparse).ETD spry (adj.).2

    spud (n.)

    mid-15c., spudde, "small, stout knife or dagger of poor quality" (a sense now obsolete), a word of uncertain origin, probably related to Danish spyd, Old Norse spjot "spear," German Spiess "spear, lance."ETD spud (n.).2

    The meaning "small-bladed spade for cutting" is from 1660s; the sense of "short and thick person or thing" is from 1680s; that of "potato" is recorded by 1840 in an English traveler's account of American peculiarities. Other extended senses in 19c. American English include "a baby's hand," "a piece of dough baked in fat."ETD spud (n.).3

    Spud barber (1935) was prison slang for "potato-peeler."ETD spud (n.).4

    spue (v.)

    variant of spew (v.), an old spelling retained in KJV.ETD spue (v.).2

    spumante (n.)

    sparkling white wine from Asti in Piedmont, 1908, from Italian spumante, literally "sparkling," from spuma "foam, froth" (see spume).ETD spumante (n.).2

    spume (n.)

    "foam, frothy matter in fluids or liquids," late 14c., from Old French spume, espume and directly from Latin spuma "foam" (also source of Italian spuma, Spanish espuma), which is cognate with Old English fam, Old High German veim "foam" (see foam (n.)). Also from 14c. as a verb, "to foam or froth," from Latin spumare. Related: Spumed; spuming.ETD spume (n.).2

    spumescent (adj.)

    "foaming, frothing; resembling froth or foam," 1806, from Latin spumescentem (nominative spumescens), present participle of spumescere "grow frothy," from spuma (see spume) + inchoative suffix -escere. Related: Spumescence (1784).ETD spumescent (adj.).2

    spumoni (n.)

    kind of ice cream dessert, 1909, from Italian spumone (singular), spumoni (plural), from spuma "foam" (see spume).ETD spumoni (n.).2


    past participle of spin (v.).ETD spun.2

    spunk (n.)

    formerly also sponk, 1530s, "a spark," Scottish, from Gaelic spong "tinder, pith, sponge," from Latin spongia (see sponge (n.)).ETD spunk (n.).2

    It is attested from 1580s as "touchwood, tinder." The colloquial sense of "courage, pluck, mettle" is attested by 1773. A similar sense evolution took place in cognate Irish sponnc "sponge, tinder, spark; courage, spunk." Also used of lucifer matches (1755). The vulgar slang sense of "seminal fluid" is recorded from c. 1888.ETD spunk (n.).3

    spunky (adj.)

    "courageous, spirited, unwilling to give up, full of spunk," 1786, from spunk (n.) + -y (2). The Scottish sense of "showing a small fire or spark" is attested from 1791. Related: Spunkily; spunkiness.ETD spunky (adj.).2

    spur (v.)

    c. 1200, sporen, "urge a horse to gallop, strike or prick (a horse) with spurs," also "incite, encourage" someone to do something, from spur (n.). Related: Spurred; spurring. Old English had spyrian, but it meant "follow the track of, track down, investigate" (compare spoor (n.)).ETD spur (v.).2

    spur (n.)

    Middle English spore, from Old English spura, spora "spiked metal implement worn on the heel to goad a horse" (related to spurnan "to kick"), from Proto-Germanic *spuron (source also of Old Norse spori, Middle Dutch spore, Dutch spoor, Old High German sporo, German Sporn "spur"), from PIE *spere- "ankle" (see spurn). Related to Dutch spoor, Old English spor "track, footprint, trace" (compare spoor).ETD spur (n.).2

    The generalized sense of "anything that goads or urges on, a stimulus," is from late 14c. As a sharp projection on the leg of a cock, from mid-13c. Extended generally 16c. to other projecting things. The meaning "ridge projecting off a mountain mass" is recorded from 1650s. Of railway lines from 1837.ETD spur (n.).3

    "Widely extended senses ... are characteristic of a horsey race" [Weekley]. Expression spur of the moment (1782) preserves archaic phrase on the spur "in great haste" (1520s).ETD spur (n.).4

    Gilded spurs were noted by early 13c. as the distinctive mark of a knight. Hence win one's spurs (early 15c.) "gain knighthood by some valorous act." To be spurless in Middle English (sporles) was to be "without spurs, stripped of noble or knightly rank."ETD spur (n.).5

    spurge (n.)

    plant species, late 14c., from Anglo-French spurge, Old French espurge, from espurgier "to purge" (transitive and intransitive), from Latin expurgare, from ex "out" (see ex-) + purgare "to purge" (see purge (v.)). Also compare Anglo-Latin spurgea. So called from the purgative and emetic properties of the milky juice in the plant's root.ETD spurge (n.).2

    spurious (adj.)

    1590s, of persons, "born out of wedlock, bastard," from Latin spurius "illegitimate, false" (source also of Italian spurio, Spanish espurio), from spurius (n.) "illegitimate child," probably from Etruscan spural "public."ETD spurious (adj.).2

    The sense of "having an irregular origin, not properly constituted" is from c. 1600; that of "false, sham, not what it pretends or appears to be" is from 1610s; specifically of writing, etc., "not proceeding from the source pretended," 1620s. Related: Spuriously; spuriousness; spuriosity.ETD spurious (adj.).3

    spurn (v.)

    Middle English spurnen, from Old English spurnan "to kick (away), strike against, drive back," as with the foot (a sense now obsolete); also "reject with disdain, scorn, despise," from Proto-Germanic *spurnon (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German spurnan, Old Frisian spurna, Old Norse sporna "to kick, drive away with the feet"), from PIE root *spere- "ankle" (source also of Middle Dutch spoor "track of an animal," Greek sphyron "ankle," Latin spernere "to reject, spurn," Sanskrit sphurati "kicks," Middle Irish seir "heel"). Related: Spurned; spurning.ETD spurn (v.).2

    spurrier (n.)

    "maker of spurs," late 13c., sporier; see spur (n.) + -er (1). Middle English also had sporiorie "craft of spur-making."ETD spurrier (n.).2

    spurt (n.)

    "brief burst or outbreak of some activity," 1590s, variant of spirt "brief period of time" (1540s), which is of uncertain origin, perhaps connected with spurt (v.).ETD spurt (n.).2

    spurt (v.)

    "to gush out, squirt," 1560s, said to be a variant of spirt, itself of obscure origin, perhaps related to Middle High German spürzen "to spit," and sprützen "to squirt" (see sprout (v.)), perhaps ultimately imitative. Related: Spurted; spurting. The noun in this sense is attested from 1775.ETD spurt (v.).2

    sputative (adj.)

    "given to excessive spitting," 1630s, with -ive + stem of Latin sputare "to spit out, spit at," a derivative of spuere "to spit" (see spew (v.)).ETD sputative (adj.).2

    sputnik (n.)

    "artificial satellite," extended from the name of the one launched by the Soviet Union on Oct. 4, 1957, from Russian sputnik "satellite," literally "traveling companion" (in this use short for sputnik zemlyi, "traveling companion of the Earth") from Old Church Slavonic supotiniku, from so-, s- "with, together" + put' "path, way," from Old Church Slavonic poti, from PIE *pent- "to tread, go" (see find (v.)) + agent suffix -nik.ETD sputnik (n.).2

    The impact of the launch on the mind of the West can be gauged by the number of new formations in -nik around this time (the suffix had been present in a Yiddish context for at least a decade before); Laika, the stray dog launched aboard Sputnik 2 (Nov. 2, 1957), was dubbed muttnik in the Detroit Free Press, etc. The rival U.S. satellite which failed to reach orbit in 1957 (because the Vanguard rocket blew up on the launch pad) was derided as a kaputnik (in the Daytona Beach Morning Journal), a dudnik (Christian Science Monitor), a flopnik (Youngstown Vindicator, New York Times), a pffftnik (National Review), and a stayputnik (Vancouver Sun).ETD sputnik (n.).3

    sputter (v.)

    1590s, "emit in small amounts or flashes, spit with explosive sounds," cognate with Dutch sputteren, West Frisian sputterje, from Proto-Germanic *sput- (see spout (v.)).ETD sputter (v.).2

    The meaning "speak rapidly and vehemently, seem to spit words, utter with spit flying" is from 1670s. Related: Sputtered; sputtering. The noun is attested from 1670s, "noisy and confused talk," by 1837 as "act of sputtering."ETD sputter (v.).3

    sputum (n.)

    "that which is brought up or expectorated from the lungs," especially in certain diseased states, 1690s, from Latin sputum "spittle," noun use of neuter past participle of spuere "to spit" (see spew (v.)).ETD sputum (n.).2

    spy (v.)

    mid-13c., spien, "to watch stealthily," from Old French espiier "observe, watch closely, spy on, find out," probably from Frankish *spehon or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *spehon- (source also of Old High German *spehon "to look out for, scout, spy," German spähen "to spy," Middle Dutch spien). These are the Germanic survivals of the productive PIE root *spek- "to observe."ETD spy (v.).2

    Old English had spyrian "make a track, go, pursue; ask about, investigate," also a noun spyrigend "investigator, inquirer." Italian spiare, Spanish espiar also are Germanic loan-words.ETD spy (v.).3

    The meaning "catch sight of, discover at a distance or from a place of concealment" is from c. 1300. The intransitive meaning "play the spy, conduct surveillance" is from mid-15c. The children's game I spy was so called by 1946.ETD spy (v.).4

    spy (n.)

    mid-13c., spie, "one who keeps constant watch on another, one sent out to make secret observations," from Old French espie "spy, look-out, scout" (Modern French épie), probably from a Germanic source related to spy (v.). Also compare Middle Dutch spie. Spymaster is attested by 1943.ETD spy (n.).2

    spyglass (n.)

    also spy-glass, "small, hand-held telescope; field-glass," 1706, from spy (v.) + glass (n.). Spying-glass is from 1680s.ETD spyglass (n.).2

    spyware (n.)

    "software used to obtain covert information about a computer's activities by transmitting data covertly from its hard drive to another computer," by 2000, from spy + ending from software in the computer sense.ETD spyware (n.).2

    squab (n.)

    1680s, "very young bird," earlier (1630s) "unformed, lumpish person" and used at various times for any sort of flabby mass, such as sofa cushions; a word of uncertain origin, probably from a Scandinavian language (compare dialectal Swedish skvabb "loose or fat flesh," skvabba "fat woman"), from Proto-Germanic *(s)kwab-. Klein's sources find Balto-Slavic cognates in Old Prussian gawabo "toad," Old Church Slavonic zaba "frog."ETD squab (n.).2

    squabble (n.)

    "petty quarrel, wrangle, dispute," c. 1600, probably from a Scandinavian source and of imitative origin (compare dialectal Swedish skvabbel "a quarrel, a dispute," dialectal German schwabbeln "to babble, prattle"). The verb also is from c. 1600, "engage in a noisy quarrel." Related: Squabbled; squabbling.ETD squabble (n.).2

    squad (n.)

    1640s, "small number of military men detailed for some purpose," from French esquade, from French escadre, from Spanish escuadra or Italian squadra "battalion," literally "square," from Vulgar Latin *exquadra "to square." This is from Latin ex "out" (see ex-) + quadrare "make square," from quadrus "a square" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").ETD squad (n.).2

    Before the widespread use of of automatic weapons, infantry troops tended to fight in a square formation to repel cavalry or superior forces. The word was extended to any small party or group of persons by 1809; specific use in sports is by 1902, police work by 1905.ETD squad (n.).3

    squadron (n.)

    1560s, "body of soldiers drawn up in a square," from Italian squadrone, augmentative of squadra "battalion," literally "square" (see squad). The general military sense of "a small detachment" is by 1570s. In 18c.-19c. especially as a division of a cavalry regiment. As a division of a fleet, from 1580s; as an air force operational unit, by 1912.ETD squadron (n.).2

    squalid (adj.)

    "foul, filthy, extremely dirty," especially from lack of care or cultivation, 1590s, from French squalide and directly from Latin squalidus "rough, coated with dirt, filthy," related to squales "filth," squalus "filthy," squalare "be covered with a rough, stiff layer, be coated with dirt, be filthy," all of uncertain origin. De Vaan offers no etymology. Figuratively, "morally degraded or repulsive," 1650s. Related: Squalidly; squalidness; squalidity.ETD squalid (adj.).2

    squall (n.)

    "sudden, violent gust of wind," 1719, originally nautical, probably from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian skval "sudden rush of water," Swedish skvala "to gush, pour down"), or a derivative of squall (v.).ETD squall (n.).2

    squall (v.)

    "cry out or scream loudly," originally of birds, 1630s, probably from a Scandinavian source, such as Old Norse skvala "to cry out," and of imitative origin (compare squeal (v.)). When applied to persons often dismissive or contemptuous. Related: Squalled; squalling. As a noun from 1709, "a loud cry."ETD squall (v.).2

    squally (adj.)

    1719, "characterized by or often disturbed with sudden violent gusts," from squall (n.) + -y (2).ETD squally (adj.).2

    squalor (n.)

    1620s, "state or condition of being miserable and dirty" (OED describes it as "a combination of misery and dirt"), from Latin squalor "roughness, dirtiness, filthiness," from squalere "be filthy" (see squalid). The figurative use, in reference to moral qualities or states, is by 1860.ETD squalor (n.).2


    word-forming element used in anatomy, etc., from Latin squama "scale" of a fish or reptile, which is said to be related to squalus "foul, filthy" (see squalid).ETD squamo-.2

    squamous (adj.)

    "scaly, scale-like, covered with scales," 1540s, from Latin squamosus "covered with scales, scaly," from squama "scale" of a fish or reptile, which is said to be related to squalus "foul, filthy" (see squalid).ETD squamous (adj.).2

    Middle English had squame "a scale" (late 14c.), from Old French esquame, from Latin squama. The alternative form squamose is attested from 1660s. Other adjectives used in essentially the same sense include squamaceous, squameous, squamosal, squamellate, squamate, squamigerous, squamiferous, squamiform.ETD squamous (adj.).3

    squander (v.)

    1580s (squandering, Nashe), "to spend recklessly or prodigiously, use without judgment or economy," of unknown origin; Shakespeare used it in "Merchant of Venice" (1593) with a sense of "to be scattered over a wide area." Related: Squandered; squanderer.ETD squander (v.).2

    Squander-bug, a British symbol of reckless extravagance and waste during war-time shortages, represented as a devilish insect, was introduced 1943. In the U.S., Rep. Louis Ludlow (D.-Indiana) coined squanderlust (1935) for the tendency of government bureaucracies to spend much money. Earlier was squandermania (1920).ETD squander (v.).3

    squared (adj.)

    late 14c., "made square, having a cubical shape," past-participle adjective from square (v.). Early 15c. as "solidly built." Of a number, "multiplied by itself," from 1570s. The meaning "drawn up in squares" is from 1660s. Of numbers, "multiplied by itself," from 1550s.ETD squared (adj.).2

    squareness (n.)

    c. 1400, squarenes, "quality of having square sides or facets," from square (adj.) + -ness.ETD squareness (n.).2

    squarely (adv.)

    1550s, in multiplication, "so as to be multiplied by itself," from square (adj.) + -ly (2). Slightly older was squarewise (1540s). From 1560s as "in a straightforward manner, honestly, fairly." The meaning "in a position square with" (opposite to) by 1802. By 1828 as "in a square form." The meaning "firmly, solidly" is from 1860.ETD squarely (adv.).2

    square (v.)

    late 14c., squaren, of stones, "make square in shape," from Old French esquarrer, variant of escarrer "to cut square," from Vulgar Latin *exquadrare "to square," from Latin ex "out" (see ex-) + quadrare "make square; set in order, complete," from quadrus "a square" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four"). Also probably from or influenced by the noun.ETD square (v.).2

    The meaning "regulate according to any given standard" is from 1530s; the sense of "accord with" is from 1590s. With reference to accounts, "balance, make even," by 1815. In 15c.-17c. the verb also could mean "deviate, vary, digress, fall out of order." Related: Squared; squaring.ETD square (v.).3

    square (adj.)

    early 14c., "having four equal sides and right angles," from square (n.), or from Old French esquarre, past participle of esquarrer. The meaning "honest, fair, equitable, just" is attested by 1560s and accounts for many figurative sense; the notion seems to be "accurately adjusted, as by a square," hence "true, fitting, proper."ETD square (adj.).2

    In measurements of square area, from late 14c. Of body parts, "sturdy, strongly built," late 14c. The meaning "straight, direct" is from 1804. Square meal, one that is solid and substantial, is by 1868; OED reports it "Orig. U.S.; common from about 1880." Of accounts, etc., "even, leaving no balance," by 1859.ETD square (adj.).3

    The sense of "old-fashioned" is by 1944 in U.S. jazz slang, said to be from shape of a conductor's hand gestures in a regular four-beat rhythm. Square-toes meant nearly the same thing late 18c.: "precise, formal, old-fashioned person," from the style of men's shoes worn early 18c. and then fallen from fashion. Squaresville, the Limbo of the L-7, is attested from 1951.ETD square (adj.).4

    Square dance (n.) is attested by 1831; originally one in which the couples faced inward from four sides; later of country dances generally. Square-dancing (n.) is by 1867, American English (Boston Evening Transcript).ETD square (adj.).5

    Square-sail is attested by c. 1600. The nautical square-rigger is by 1829; square-rigged is from 1769. Square wheel as figurative of something that doesn't work as needed is by 1920.ETD square (adj.).6

    square (n.)

    mid-13c., "mason's tool for measuring right angles, carpenter's square," from Old French esquire "a square, squareness," from Vulgar Latin *exquadra, a back-formation from *exquadrare "to square," from Latin ex "out" (see ex-) + quadrare "make square, set in order, complete," from quadrus "a square" (from PIE root *kwetwer- "four").ETD square (n.).2

    The meaning "square shape or area" is recorded by late 14c. (Old English used feower-scyte). The geometric sense of "four-sided rectilinear figure" is from 1550s. The mathematical sense of "number or quantity derived from a number multiplied by itself" is also from 1550s.ETD square (n.).3

    As "square piece; any object in roughly square form" by c. 1600. As a body of troops, 1590s. As "old-fashioned person" by 1944 (see square adj.). As short for square meal, from 1882. Square one "the very beginning" (often what one must go back to) is from 1960, probably a figure from board games.ETD square (n.).4

    The sense of "quadrilateral open space in a town or park" is from 1680s; that of "area bounded by four streets in a city" is from c. 1700; in England this was often an individual building but in the U.S. commonly "a block of buildings bounded by four streets" (by 1867), which made it formerly noted as one of the words used differently in the two countries.ETD square (n.).5

    square (adv.)

    1570s, "fairly, honestly," from square (adj.). The notion seems to be of rule, regularity, exact proportion, hence integrity of conduct, honest dealing. It is attested from 1630s as "directly, in line." The sense of "completely" is American-English, colloquial, by 1862.ETD square (adv.).2

    squash (v.)

    "to crush, squeeze," early 14c., squachen, from Old French esquacher, variant of esquasser, escasser, escachier "to crush, shatter, destroy, break," from Vulgar Latin *exquassare, from Latin ex "out" (see ex-) + quassare "to shatter" (see quash "to crush").ETD squash (v.).2

    Perhaps it has been partly conformed to quash (v.). "In some senses, however, perhaps partly or mainly of imitative origin" [OED]. English squ- words of more or less imitative origin sometimes have echoes in qu- : squelch/quelch, quag and obsolete squagen "make a stain or smudge" (c. 1500). Related: Squashed; squashing.ETD squash (v.).3

    squash (n.2)

    1590s, used of soft, unripe things; 1610s, "act of squashing a soft substance," from squash (v.), later also "drink made from crushed fruit." The racket game was called by that name by 1899; earlier (1886) it was the name of the soft rubber ball used in it.ETD squash (n.2).2

    squash (n.1)

    gourd fruit of certain trailing plants, 1640s, shortened borrowing from Narraganset (Algonquian) askutasquash, literally "the things that may be eaten raw," from askut "green, raw, uncooked" + asquash "eaten," in which the -ash is a plural affix (compare succotash). The squash-bug (1807) feeds on its leaves.ETD squash (n.1).2

    squashy (adj.)

    "soft and wet, pulpy, mushy," 1690s, from squash (n.2) + -y (2).ETD squashy (adj.).2

    squat (n.)

    c. 1400, "a bump, a heavy fall," from squat (v.). The meaning "posture of one who squats" is from 1570s; that of "act of squatting" (especially to defecate) is from 1580s. The slang noun sense of "nothing at all" is attested by 1934, probably suggestive of defecation. Weight-lifting sense is from 1954.ETD squat (n.).2

    squat (v.)

    mid-14c., squatten, "to crush, flatten" (a sense now obsolete); early 15c., "crouch on the heels," from Old French esquatir, escatir "compress, press down, lay flat, crush," from es- "out" (see ex-) + Old French quatir "press down, flatten," from Vulgar Latin *coactire "press together, force," from Latin coactus, past participle of cogere "to compel, curdle, collect" (see cogent). The meaning "settle on land without any title or right" is from 1800 (compare squatter). Related: Squatted; squatting.ETD squat (v.).2

    squat (adj.)

    early 15c., "crouched on the heels, in a squatting position," from squat (v.)). The sense of "short, thick" is by 1620s.ETD squat (adj.).2

    squatter (n.)

    "settler who occupies land without legal title," 1788, agent noun from squat (v.); in reference to paupers or homeless people in uninhabited buildings, it is recorded from 1880. The property so occupied is a squattage (1862); if the occupiers acquire social or political clout, they are a squattocracy (1846).ETD squatter (n.).2

    squaw (n.)

    "Native American woman," 1630s, from Massachuset (Algonquian) squa "woman" (cognate with Narraganset squaws "woman"). "Over the years it has come to have a derogatory sense and is now considered offensive by many Native Americans" [Bright]. Widespread in U.S. place names before 21c., sometimes as a translation of a local native word for "woman." In old New England writers, sometimes paired with sannup (1620s) "married male member of a Native community."ETD squaw (n.).2

    squawk (v.)

    "cry with a loud, harsh voice, as an alarmed fowl," 1821, probably of imitative origin (compare dialectal Italian squacco "small crested heron"). Related: Squawked; squawking. Squawk-box "loud-speaker" is U.S. slang from 1945.ETD squawk (v.).2

    squawk (n.)

    "a loud, grating squeak or squall," 1850, from squawk (v.).ETD squawk (n.).2

    squeak (n.)

    "a short, sharp, shrill cry," 1660s, from squeak (v.); sense of "a narrow escape, close call" is by 1811; earlier "a slight chance" (1716).ETD squeak (n.).2

    squeak (v.)

    late 14c., squeken, "utter a short, sharp, high-pitched cry," probably of imitative origin. It is similar to Middle Swedish skväka "to squeak, croak." Related: Squeaked; squeaking.ETD squeak (v.).2

    squeaker (n.)

    1640s, "one who or that which squeaks," agent noun from squeak (v.). As a toy that makes a squeaking sound, by 1878.ETD squeaker (n.).2

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