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.
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 (cognates: Old Norse spörr, Old High German sparo, German Sperling, Gothic sparwa), from PIE *spor-wo-, from root *sper- (3), forming names of small birds (cognates: 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" (cognates: 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 (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.
spasm (v.) Look up spasm at
1900, from spasm (n.). Related: Spasmed; spasming.
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).
spat (n.2) Look up spat at
"short gaiter covering the ankle" (usually only in plural, spats), 1779, shortening of spatterdash "long gaiter to keep trousers or stockings from being spattered with mud" (1680s), from spatter and dash (v.).
spat (n.3) Look up spat at
"spawn of a shellfish," especially "spawn of an oyster," also "a young oyster," 1660s, of unknown origin, perhaps from the past tense of spit (v.1).
spate (n.) Look up spate at
early 15c., originally Scottish and northern English, "a sudden flood, especially one caused by heavy rains or a snowmelt," of unknown origin. Perhaps from Old French espoit "flood," from Dutch spuiten "to flow, spout;" related to spout (v.). Figurative sense of "unusual quantity" is attested from 1610s.
spathic (adj.) Look up spathic at
1788, from French spathique, from spath, from German Spath (see feldspar).
spatial (adj.) Look up spatial at
1840 (spacial is from 1838), "occupying space," from Latin spatium + adjectival suffix -al (1); formed in English as an adjective to space (n.), to go with temporal. Meaning "of or relating to space" is from 1857. Related: Spatially.
spatter (v.) Look up spatter at
1570s (implied in spattering), possibly a frequentative verb from the stem of Dutch or Low German spatten "to spout, burst," of imitative origin. Related: Spattered. As a noun from 1797.
spatterdash (n.) Look up spatterdash at
see spat (n.2).
spatula (n.) Look up spatula at
1520s (from early 15c. as a type of medical instrument), from Latin spatula "broad piece, spatula," diminutive of spatha "broad, flat tool or weapon," from Greek spathe "broad flat blade (used by weavers)" (see spade (n.1)). Erroneous form spattular is attested from c. 1600.
spatulate (adj.) Look up spatulate at
1760, from Modern Latin spatulatus, from spatula (see spatula).
spavin (n.) Look up spavin at
disease of the hock joint of a horse, early 15c., from Middle French espavain (Modern French épavin, cognate with Italian spavenio, Spanish esparavan); in most sources said to be perhaps from Frankish *sparwan "sparrow" (see sparrow), on the supposition that a horse affected with spavin moved with a walk that reminded people of the bird's awkward gait. This seems a stretcher, and Century Dictionary admits it rests on mere resemblance of form. Related: Spavined (adj.).
spawn (v.) Look up spawn at
c. 1400, intransitive, from Anglo-French espaundre, Old French espandre "to spread out, pour out, scatter, strew, spawn (of fish)" (Modern French épandre), from Latin expandere (see expand). The notion is of a "spreading out" of fish eggs released in water. The transitive meaning "to engender, give rise to" is attested from 1590s. Related: Spawned; spawning.
spawn (n.) Look up spawn at
late 15c., "fish eggs," from spawn (v.); figurative sense of "brood, offspring," and, insultingly, of persons, is from 1580s.
spay (v.) Look up spay at
early 15c., "stab with a sword, kill," also "remove the ovaries of (a hunting dog)," from Anglo-French espeier "cut with a sword," from Middle French espeer, from Old French espee "sword" (French épée), from Latin spatha "broad, flat weapon or tool," from Greek spathe "broad blade" (see spade (n.1)). Compare Greek spadon "eunuch." Related: Spayed; spaying.
spaz (n.) Look up spaz at
also spazz, by 1965, U.S. teen slang put-down, apparently a derogatory shortening of spastic (n.). Also used as a verb. Related: Spazzed; spazzing (often with out (adv.)).
speak (v.) Look up speak at
Old English specan, variant of sprecan "to speak, utter words; make a speech; hold discourse (with others)" (class V strong verb; past tense spræc, past participle sprecen), from Proto-Germanic *sprek-, *spek- (cognates: Old Saxon sprecan, Old Frisian spreka, Middle Dutch spreken, Old High German sprehhan, German sprechen "to speak," Old Norse spraki "rumor, report"), from PIE root *spreg- (1) "to speak," perhaps identical with PIE root *spreg- (2) "to strew," on notion of speech as a "scattering" of words.

The -r- began to drop out in Late West Saxon and was gone by mid-12c., perhaps from influence of Danish spage "crackle," also used in a slang sense of "speak" (compare crack (v.) in slang senses having to do with speech, such as wisecrack, cracker, all it's cracked up to be). Elsewhere, rare variant forms without -r- are found in Middle Dutch (speken), Old High German (spehhan), dialectal German (spächten "speak").

Not the primary word for "to speak" in Old English (the "Beowulf" author prefers maþelian, from mæþel "assembly, council," from root of metan "to meet;" compare Greek agoreuo "to speak, explain," originally "speak in the assembly," from agora "assembly").
speak (n.) Look up speak at
c. 1300, "talk, speech," from speak (v.). Survived in Scottish English and dialect, but modern use in compounds probably is entirely traceable to Orwell (see Newspeak).
speakable (adj.) Look up speakable at
late 15c., from speak (v.) + -able. Also see unspeakable. Old English had sprecendlic "that should be spoken."
speakeasy (n.) Look up speakeasy at
"unlicensed saloon," 1889 (in the New York "Voice"), from verbal phrase, from speak (v.) + easy (adv.); so called from the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police and neighbors. The word gained wide currency in U.S. during Prohibition (1920-1932). In early 19c. Irish and British dialect, a speak softly shop meant "smuggler's den."
speaker (n.) Look up speaker at
c. 1300, "one who speaks," agent noun from speak (v.). Similar formation in Old Frisian spreker, Old High German sprahhari, German Sprecher. First applied to "person who presides over an assembly" c. 1400, from similar use in Anglo-French (late 14c.) in reference to the English Parliament; later extended to the U.S. House of Representatives, etc. The electric amplifier so called from 1926, short for loud-speaker.
spear (n.1) Look up spear at
"weapon with a penetrating head and a long wooden shaft, meant to be thrust or thrown," Old English spere "spear, javelin, lance," from Proto-Germanic *speri (cognates: Old Norse spjör, Old Saxon, Old Frisian sper, Dutch speer, Old High German sper, German Speer "spear"), from PIE root *sper- (1) "spear, pole" (cognates: Old Norse sparri "spar, rafter," and perhaps also Latin sparus "hunting spear").
spear (n.2) Look up spear at
"sprout of a plant," 1640s, earlier "church spire" (c. 1500); variant of spire (n.).
spear (v.) Look up spear at
1755, from spear (n.1). Related: Speared; spearing.
spear-head (n.) Look up spear-head at
c. 1400, from spear (n.1) + head (n.). Figurative sense of "leading element" (of an attack, movement, etc.) is attested from 1893; the verb in this sense is recorded from 1938. Related: Spearheaded; spearheading.
spearmint (n.) Look up spearmint at
1530s, from spear (n.2) + mint (n.1). "Said to be a corruption of spire-mint, with reference to the pyramidal inflorescence" [Century Dictionary].
spec (n.) Look up spec at
short for specification, 1956. Related: Specs.
special (adj.) Look up special at
c. 1200, "better than ordinary," from Old French special, especial "special, particular, unusual" (12c., Modern French spécial) and directly from Latin specialis "individual, particular" (source also of Spanish especial, Italian speziale), from species "appearance, kind, sort" (see species).

Meaning "marked off from others by some distinguishing quality" is recorded from c. 1300; that of "limited as to function, operation, or purpose" is from 14c. Special effects first attested 1951. Special interests in U.S. political sense is from 1910. Special pleading first recorded 1680s, a term that had a sound legal meaning once but now is used generally and imprecisely. Special education in reference to those whose learning is impeded by some mental or physical handicap is from 1972.
special (n.) Look up special at
"sweetheart, lover; special person or thing," c. 1300, from special (adj.) or from noun use of the adjective in Old French. Meaning "special train" is attested from 1866.
specialisation (n.) Look up specialisation at
chiefly British English spelling of specialization. For spelling, see -ize.
specialist (n.) Look up specialist at
1852 (originally in the medical sense and much scorned by the GPs); see special (adj.) + -ist. Perhaps immediately from French spécialiste (1842). In general use in English by 1862. Related: Specialism.
speciality (n.) Look up speciality at
early 15c., "a special quality or thing;" mid-15c. as "quality of being special," from Old French specialte, especialte "nature, special quality, particularity; special point, distinction," and directly from Latin specialitatem (nominative specialitas) "peculiarity, particularity" from specialis "individual, particular" (see special (adj.)). French form spécialité (especially in reference to restaurant dishes) is recorded in English from 1839.
specialization (n.) Look up specialization at
1837, "act of becoming specialized," noun of action from specialize. Biological sense from 1862. In science and scientific education, "a direction of time and energies in one particular channel to the exclusion of others," by 1880.
specialize (v.) Look up specialize at
1610s, "to indicate specially," from special (adj.) + -ize, perhaps on model of French spécialiser. Sense of "engage in a special study or line of business" is first attested 1881; biological sense is from 1851. Related: Specialized; specializing.