Spain Look up Spain at
c. 1200, from Anglo-French Espayne, from Late Latin Spania, from Latin Hispania (see Spaniard). The usual Old English form was Ispania.
spake Look up spake at
archaic or poetic past tense of speak.
spald (v.) Look up spald at
c. 1400, "to splinter, chip" (transitive; spalding-knife is from mid-14c.), of uncertain origin, perhaps from Middle Dutch spalden, cognate with Middle Low German spalden, Old High German spaltan, German spalten "to split" (see spill (v.)). The later form of the verb is spall (1758), from or by influence of the noun. Related: Spalled; spalling.
spall (n.) Look up spall at
"chip of stone," mid-15c., from Middle English verb spald "to split open."
spam (n.) Look up spam at
proprietary name registered by Geo. A. Hormel & Co. in U.S., 1937; probably a conflation of spiced ham. Soon extended to other kinds of canned meat.

In the sense of "internet junk mail" it was coined by Usenet users after March 31, 1993, when Usenet administrator Richard Depew inadvertently posted the same message 200 times to a discussion group. The term had been used in online text games, and ultimately it is from a 1970 sketch on the British TV show "Monty Python's Flying Circus" wherein a reading of a restaurant's menu devolves into endless repetitions of "spam."
span (n.1) Look up span at
"distance between two objects," from Old English span "distance between the thumb and little finger of an extended hand" (as a measure of length, roughly nine inches), probably related to Middle Dutch spannen "to join, fasten," from Proto-Germanic *spannan, from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin."

The Germanic word was borrowed into Medieval Latin as spannus, hence Italian spanna, Old French espan "hand's width, span as a unit of measure," French empan. As a measure of volume (early 14c.), "what can be held in two cupped hands." Meaning "length of time" first attested 1590s; that of "space between abutments of an arch, etc." is from 1725. Meaning "maximum lateral dimension of an aircraft" is first recorded 1909.
span (v.) Look up span at
Old English spannan "to join, link, clasp, fasten, bind, connect; stretch, span," from Proto-Germanic *spannan (source also of Old Norse spenna, Old Frisian spanna, Middle Dutch spannen, Dutch spannan "stretch, bend, hoist, hitch," Old High German spannan, German spannen "to join, fasten, extend, connect"), from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin" (source also of spin (v.)).

The meaning "to encircle with the hand(s)" is from 1781; in the sense of "to form an arch over (something)" it is first recorded 1630s. Related: Spanned; spanning.
span (n.2) Look up span at
"two animals driven together," 1769, American English, from Dutch span, from spannen "to stretch or yoke," from Middle Dutch spannan, cognate with Old English spannan "to join," from Proto-Germanic *spannan, from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin." Also used in South African English.
spanandry (n.) Look up spanandry at
"extreme scarcity of males in a population," 1924, from French spananderie (1913), from Greek spanis "scarcity" + aner "man."
Spandex (n.) Look up Spandex at
synthetic fiber, 1959, American English, proprietary name, an arbitrary formation from expand + commercial suffix -ex.
spandrel (n.) Look up spandrel at
"triangular space between the outer curve of an arch and the molding enclosing it," late 15c., apparently a diminutive of Anglo-French spaundre (late 14c.), which is of uncertain origin, perhaps a shortening of Old French espandre "to expand, extend, spread," from Latin expandre "to spread out, unfold, expand," from ex "out" (see ex-) + pandere "to spread, stretch" (from nasalized form of PIE root *pete- "to spread").
spangle (v.) Look up spangle at
1540s, "cover with spangles," from spangle (n.). Intransitive meaning "glitter, glisten" is from 1630s. Related: Spangled; spangling.
spangle (n.) Look up spangle at
early 15c., "small piece of glittering metal," diminutive of spang "glittering ornament, spangle," probably from Middle Dutch spange "brooch, clasp," cognate with Old English spang "buckle, clasp," from Proto-Germanic *spango, from an extended form of PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin."
Spanglish (n.) Look up Spanglish at
"Spanish deformed by English words and idioms," by 1967, probably a nativization of Spanish Espanglish (1954); ultimately from Spanish (n.) + English.
spangly (adj.) Look up spangly at
1753, from spangle (n.) + -y (2).
Spaniard (n.) Look up Spaniard at
c. 1400, from Old French Espaignart, from Espaigne "Spain," from Latin Hispania, from Greek Hispania "Spain," Hispanos "Spanish, a Spaniard," probably from Celt-Iberian, in which language (H)i- represents a definite article [Klein, who compares Hellenistic Greek Spania]. The earlier English noun was Spaynol (mid-14c.), from Old French Espaignol. The Latin adjectives are Hispanus, Hispanicus, Hispaniensis.
spaniel (n.) Look up spaniel at
late 13c., as a surname meaning "Spaniard;" as a name for a breed of dog supposedly of Spanish origin, late 14c., from Old French (chien) espagneul, literally "Spanish (dog)," from Vulgar Latin *Hispaniolus "of Spain," diminutive of Latin Hispanus "Spanish, Hispanic" (see Spaniard). Used originally to start game; the breed was much-developed in England in 17c. Whether it is actually originally Spanish is uncertain.
Spanish (adj.) Look up Spanish at
c. 1200, Spainisc, from Spaine "Spain," from Old French Espaigne (see Spaniard) + -ish. Replaced Old English Speonisc. Altered 16c. by influence of Latin. As a noun, "the Spanish language," from late 15c.

For Spanish Main see main. Spanish moss is attested from 1823. Spanish fly, the fabled aphrodisiac (ground-up cantharis blister-beetles), is attested from c. 1600. Spanish-American War was so called in British press speculations early 1898, even before it began in April. For Spanish Inquisition (by c. 1600), see Inquisition.
spank (v.) Look up spank at
1727, "to strike forcefully with the open hand, especially on the buttocks," possibly imitative of the sound of spanking. Related: Spanked; spanking. The noun is from 1785.
spanking (adj.) Look up spanking at
1660s, "very big or fine," later (especially of horses) "moving at a lively pace" (1738), of uncertain origin; perhaps from a Scandinavian source (OED compares Danish spanke "to strut"). Probably also related to spanker "something striking" (for size, etc.), 1751; as a kind of sail from 1794.
spanking (n.) Look up spanking at
"act of striking with the open hand," especially as a punishment administered to children, 1854, verbal noun from spank (v.).
spanner (n.) Look up spanner at
1630s, a tool for winding the spring of a wheel-lock firearm, from German Spanner, from spannen "to join, fasten, extend, connect," from Proto-Germanic *spannan, from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin" (source also of spin (v.)). Meaning "wrench" is from 1790. Figurative phrase spanner in the works attested from 1921 (Wodehouse).
spar (n.1) Look up spar at
early 14c., "rafter;" late 14c., "stout pole," from or cognate with Middle Low German or Middle Dutch sparre, from Proto-Germanic *sparron (source also of Old English *spere "spear, lance," Old Norse sperra "rafter, beam," German Sparren "spar, rafter"), from PIE root *sper- (1) "spear, pole" (see spear (n.1)). Nautical use, in reference to one used as a mast, yard, boom, etc., dates from 1630s. Also borrowed in Old French as esparre, which might be the direct source of the English word.
spar (n.2) Look up spar at
"crystalline mineral that breaks easily into fragments with smooth surfaces," 1580s, from Low German Spar, from Middle Low German *spar, *sper, cognate with Old English spær- in spærstan "gypsum."
spar (v) Look up spar at
late 14c., "go quickly, rush, dart, spring;" c. 1400, "to strike or thrust," perhaps from Middle French esparer "to kick" (Modern French éparer), from Italian sparare "to fling," from Latin ex- (see ex-) + parare "make ready, prepare," hence "ward off, parry" (from PIE root *pere- (1) "to produce, procure"). Etymologists consider a connection with spur unlikely. Used in 17c. in reference to preliminary actions in a cock fight; figurative sense of "to dispute, bandy with words" is from 1690s. Extension to humans, in a literal sense, with meaning "to engage in or practice boxing" is attested from 1755. Related: Sparred; sparring.
sparagmos (n.) Look up sparagmos at
ritual death of a hero in tragedy or myth, 1913, from Greek sparagmos, literally "tearing, rending."
spare (adj.) Look up spare at
"kept in reserve, not used, provided or held for extra need," late 14c., from or from the same root as spare (v.). Old English had spær "sparing, frugal." Also compare Old Norse sparr "(to be) spared." In reference to time, from mid-15c.; sense of "lacking in substance; lean, gaunt; flimsy, thin; poor," is recorded from 1540s. Spare part is attested from 1888. Spare tire is from 1894 of bicycles; 1903 of automobiles; 1961 of waistlines.
spare (n.) Look up spare at
"extra thing or part," 1640s, from spare (adj.). The Middle English noun sense was "a sparing, mercy, leniency" (early 14c.). Bowling game sense of "an advantage gained by a knocking down of all pins in two bowls" is attested from 1843, American English.
spare (v.) Look up spare at
Old English sparian "to refrain from harming, be indulgent to, allow to go free; use sparingly," from the source of Old English spær "sparing, frugal," from Proto-Germanic *sparaz (source also of Old Saxon sparon, Old Frisian sparia, Old Norse spara, Dutch sparen, Old High German sparon, German sparen "to spare"). Meaning "to dispense from one's own stock, give or yield up," is recorded from early 13c. Related: Spared; sparing.
spare-ribs (n.) Look up spare-ribs at
1590s, formerly also spear-ribs, from spare (adj.), here indicating probably "absence of fat;" or perhaps from Middle Low German ribbesper "spare ribs," from sper "spit," and meaning originally "a spit thrust through pieces of rib-meat" [Klein]; if so, it is related to spar (n.1).
sparingly (adv.) Look up sparingly at
mid-15c., from sparing, attested from late 14c. as a present participle adjective from spare (v.), + -ly (2).
spark (v.) Look up spark at
c. 1200, "to emit sparks," from spark (n.). Meaning "to affect by an electrical spark" is from 1889. Figurative meaning "stimulate, to trigger" first attested 1912. Meaning "to play the gallant, to court" is from the 17c. secondary sense of the noun. Related: Sparked; sparking.
spark (n.) Look up spark at
Old English spearca "glowing or fiery particle thrown off," from Proto-Germanic *spark- (source also of Middle Low German sparke, Middle Dutch spranke, not found in other Germanic languages). Electrical sense dates from 1748. Old French esparque is from Germanic.

Slang sense of "a gallant, a showy beau, a roisterer" (c. 1600) is perhaps a figurative use, but also perhaps from cognate Old Norse sparkr "lively." Spark plug first recorded 1902 (sparking plug is from 1899); figurative sense of "one who initiates or is a driving force in some activity" is from 1941.
sparkle (n.) Look up sparkle at
early 14c., from sparkle (v.), or a diminutive of spark (n.).
sparkle (v.) Look up sparkle at
c. 1200, "to shine as if giving off sparks," frequentative verb form of Middle English sparke (see spark (v.)). Meaning "emit sparks" is from late 15c. Related: Sparkled; sparkling.
sparkler (n.) Look up sparkler at
1713, "what sparkles" (often of gems, wits, or women), agent noun from sparkle (v.). In the modern hand-held fireworks sense, from 1905.
The New York Board of Fire Underwriters has issued a warning against the storage, sale and use of a new form of fireworks now on the market. These are known as "electric sparklers," are made in Germany, and come to this country in metal lined cases each containing 120 dozen of pasteboard boxes with 12 sparklers in each box. The Board's warning says that while the sparklers appear harmless, the solid incandescent mass is intensely hot and readily communicates fire to any inflammable substance it may touch. ["The Standard" (weekly insurance newspaper), Boston, May 4, 1907]
sparkling (adj.) Look up sparkling at
early 13c., present participle adjective from sparkle (v.). Of eyes and wines from early 15c.; of conversation from 1640s. Related: Sparklingly.
sparkly (adv.) Look up sparkly at
1922, from sparkle (n.) + -y (2). Related: Sparkliness.
sparrow (n.) Look up sparrow at
small brownish-gray bird (Passer domesticus), Old English spearwa, from Proto-Germanic *sparwan (source also of Old Norse spörr, Old High German sparo, German Sperling, Gothic sparwa), from PIE *spor-wo-, from root *sper- (3), forming names of small birds (source also of Cornish frau "crow;" Old Prussian spurglis "sparrow;" Greek spergoulos "small field bird," psar "starling"). In use, with qualifying words, of many small, sparrow-like birds. Sparrowfarts (1886) was Cheshire slang for "very early morning."
sparrowhawk (n.) Look up sparrowhawk at
hawk that preys on small birds, c. 1400, replacing forms from Old English spearhafoc; see sparrow + hawk (n.).
sparse (adj.) Look up sparse at
1727, from Latin sparsus "scattered," past participle of spargere "to scatter, spread," from PIE root *(s)preg- (2) "to jerk, scatter" (source also of Sanskrit parjanya- "rain, rain god," Avestan fra-sparega "branch, twig," literally "that which is jerked off a tree," Old Norse freknur "freckles," Swedish dialectal sprygg "brisk, active," Lithuanian sprogti "shoot, bud," Old Irish arg "a drop"). The word is found earlier in English as a verb, "to scatter abroad" (16c.). Related: Sparsely; sparseness.
Sparta Look up Sparta at
capital of Laconia in ancient Greece, famed for severity of its social order, the frugality of its people, the valor of its arms, and the brevity of its speech. Also for dirty boys, men vain of their long hair, boxing girls, iron money, and insufferable black broth. The name is said to be from Greek sparte "cord made from spartos," a type of broom, from PIE *spr-to-, from root *sper- (2) "to turn, twist" (see spiral (adj.)). Perhaps the reference is to the cords laid as foundation markers for the city. Or the whole thing could be folk etymology.
Spartacist (n.) Look up Spartacist at
German Bolshevik of November 1918 uprising, 1919, from German Spartakist, from Spartacus (d.71 B.C.E.), Thracian leader of Roman Servile War (73-71 B.C.E.), ultimately from Sparta; the name was adopted 1916 as a pseudonym by Karl Liebknecht in his political tracts; thence Spartacist for the socialist revolutionary group he founded with Rosa Luxemburg and Franz Mehring.
Spartan (n.) Look up Spartan at
early 15c., "citizen of the ancient Greek city of Sparta" (q.v.), from Latin Spartanus. As an adjective from 1580s; meaning "characterized by frugality or courage" is from 1640s.
spasm (v.) Look up spasm at
1900, from spasm (n.). Related: Spasmed; spasming.
spasm (n.) Look up spasm at
late 14c., "sudden violent muscular contraction," from Old French spasme (13c.) and directly from Latin spasmus "a spasm," from Greek spasmos "a spasm, convulsion," from span "draw up, tear away, contract violently, pull, pluck," from PIE *spe- "stretch." Figurative sense of "a sudden convulsion" (of emotion, politics, etc.) is attested from 1817.
spasmatic (adj.) Look up spasmatic at
c. 1600, from French spasmatique, from Medieval Latin spasmaticus, from Latin spasm (see spasm). Related: Spasmatical.
spasmodic (adj.) Look up spasmodic at
1680s, from French spasmodique, from Medieval Latin spasmodicus, from Greek spasmodes "of the nature of a spasm," from spasmos (see spasm) + -odes "like" (see -oid). Related: Spasmodically.
spastic (adj.) Look up spastic at
1753, from Latin spasticus, from Greek spastikos "afflicted with spasms," literally "drawing, pulling, stretching," from span "draw up" (see spasm (n.)). The noun meaning "a person affected with spastic paralysis" is attested from 1896, used insultingly by 1960s. Related: Spastically; spasticity.
spat (n.1) Look up spat at
"petty quarrel," 1804, American English, of unknown origin; perhaps somehow imitative (compare spat "smack, slap," attested from 1823).