sperate (adj.)
of debts, "having some likelihood of recovery," 1550s, from Latin speratus, past participle of sperare "to hope," denominative of spes "hope," from PIE *spe-is-, from root spe- (1) "to thrive, prosper" (see speed (n.)).
sperm (n.)
"male seminal fluid," late 14c., probably from Old French esperme "seed, sperm" (13c.) and directly from Late Latin sperma "seed, semen," from Greek sperma "the seed of plants, also of animals," literally "that which is sown," from speirein "to sow, scatter," from PIE *sper-mn-, from root *sper- (4) "to strew" (see sprout (v.)). Sperm bank is attested from 1963. For sperm whale see spermaceti.
spermaceti (n.)
"waxy, fatty stuff in the head of certain whales," late 15c., from Medieval Latin sperma ceti "sperm of a whale" (it has when fresh something of the appearance of sperm), from Latin sperma "seed, semen" (see sperm) + ceti, genitive of cetus "whale, large sea animal" (see Cetacea). The substance in olden times was credited with medicinal properties, as well as being used for candle oil.
Use ... Sperma Cete ana with redd Wyne when ye wax old. [Sir George Ripley, "The Compound of Alchemy," 1471]
Scientists still are not sure exactly what it does. Sperm whale, short for spermaceti whale, is from 1830.
spermatic (adj.)
late 14c., from Old French spermatique and directly from Late Latin spermaticus, from sperma (see sperm).
before vowels spermat-, word-forming element meaning "seed, sperm," used from 1880s in scientific compounds, from Greek sperma (genitive spermatos "seed" of an animal or plant; see sperm).
spermatogenesis (n.)
1877, earlier in German, from Greek sperma "seed" of an animal or plant (see sperm) + -genesis "birth, origin, creation."
spermatozoa (n.)
plural of spermatozoon, 1836.
spermatozoon (n.)
(plural spermatozoa), "male sexual cell," 1836, from spermato- + Greek zoion "animal" (from PIE root *gwei- "to live"). Related: Spermatozoal.
spermicide (n.)
1929; see sperm + -cide "killer." Earlier was spermacide (1908) and spermaticide (1923), from French, where it is recorded by 1876.
spessartite (n.)
manganese garnet, 1853, earlier spessartine (1837), from French spessartine (1832), from Spessart, district in Bavaria where it is found.
spew (v.)
Old English spiwan "spew, spit," from Proto-Germanic *spiew- (source also of Old Saxon spiwan, Old Norse spyja, Old Frisian spiwa, Middle Dutch spijen, Dutch spuwen, Old High German spiwan, German speien, Gothic spiewan "to spit"), from PIE *sp(y)eu- "to spew, spit," probably ultimately of imitative origin (source also of Latin spuere; Greek ptuein, Doric psyttein; Old Church Slavonic pljuja, Russian plevati; Lithuanian spiauti). Also in Old English as a weak verb, speowan. Related: Spewed; spewing.
spew (n.)
"vomited matter," c. 1600, from spew (v.).
sphagnum (n.)
genus of mosses, peat-moss, 1741, Modern Latin, from Latin sphagnos, a kind of lichen, from Greek sphagnos "a spiny shrub, a kind of moss," of unknown origin. Related: Sphagnous.
before vowels sphen-, word-forming element meaning "wedge," from Greek sphen "a wedge," probably cognate with Old Norse spann "splinter," Old English spon "chip of wood" (see spoon (n.)).
sphenoid (adj.)
1732, from spheno- + -oid. As a noun from 1828. Related: Sphenoidal.
sphere (n.)
mid-15c., Latinized spelling of Middle English spere (c. 1300) "cosmos; space, conceived as a hollow globe about the world," from Anglo-French espiere, Old French espere (13c., Modern French sphère), from Latin sphaera "globe, ball, celestial sphere" (Medieval Latin spera), from Greek sphaira "globe, ball, playing ball, terrestrial globe," a word of unknown origin.

From late 14c. in reference to any of the supposed concentric, transparent, hollow, crystalline globes of the cosmos believed to revolve around the earth and contain the planets and the fixed stars; the supposed harmonious sound they made rubbing against one another was the music of the spheres (late 14c.). Also from late 14c. as "a globe; object of spherical form, a ball," and the geometric sense "solid figure with all points equidistant from the center." Meaning "range of something, place or scene of activity" is first recorded c. 1600 (as in sphere of influence, 1885, originally in reference to Anglo-German colonial rivalry in Africa).
spherical (adj.)
1520s, from sphere + -ical. Related: Spherically. A spherical number (1640s) is one whose powers always terminate in the same digit as the number itself (5, 6, and 10 are the only ones).
spheroid (n.)
"body resembling, but not identical with, a sphere," 1560s, from Latin sphaeroides, from Greek sphairoeides "ball-like, spherical," from sphaira (see sphere) + -oeides "form" (see -oid). As an adjective from 1767. Related: Spheroidal.
sphincter (n.)
1570s, from Middle French sphincter, from Late Latin sphincter "contractile muscle," from Greek sphinkter "band, lace, anything that binds tight," from sphingein "to squeeze, bind," of unknown origin. First used in anatomical sense by Galen. There are several in the body; the one usually meant is the sphincter ani.
sphinx (n.)
monster of Greek mythology having a lion's (winged) body and a woman's head; she waylaid travelers around Thebes and devoured those who could not answer her questions; Oedipus solved the riddle and the Sphinx killed herself. In English from early 15c., from Latin Sphinx, from Greek Sphinx, said to mean literally" the strangler," a back-formation from sphingein "to squeeze, bind" (see sphincter).

There also was an Egyptian form (usually male and wingless); in reference to this it is attested in English from 1570s; specific reference to the colossal stone one near the pyramids as Giza is attested from 1610s. Transferred sense of "person or thing of mysterious nature" is from c. 1600. The proper plural would be sphinges. As adjectives in English, sphingal, sphingian, sphingine, sphinxian, sphinxine, and sphinx-like all have been tried.
word-forming element meaning "pulse," from Greek sphygmos "a pulse," from sphyzein "to throb, pulse, beat."
sphygmomanometer (n.)
1891, from sphygmo- "pulse" + manometer.
spic (n.)
derogatory for "Latino person," 1913, from cliche protestation, No spick English. Earlier spiggoty (1910 "speak-a the ..."); the term is said to have originated in Panama during the canal construction. But it also was applied from an early date to Italians, and some have suggested an alteration of spaghetti.
Spica (n.)
1728, bright star in constellation Virgo, from Latin, literally "ear of grain" (see spike (n.2)); corresponding to Greek stakhys. As the ancients visualized the constellation, she held an ear of grain.
spicate (adj.)
1660s, "having spikes," from Latin spicatus, past participle of spicare "to furnish with spikes," from spica (see spike (n.2)).
spice (v.)
"to season with spices," early 14c. (implied in spiced), from spice (n.), or from Old French espicier, from the French noun. Figurative sense of "to vary, diversify" is from 1520s.
spice (n.)
c. 1200, "something added to food or drink to enhance the flavor, vegetable substance aromatic or pungent to the taste," also "a spice used as a medication or an alchemical ingredient," from Old French espice (Modern French épice), from Late Latin species (plural) "spices, goods, wares," in classical Latin "kind, sort" (see species). From c. 1300 as "an aromatic spice," also "spices as commodities;" from early 14c. as "a spice-bearing plant." Figurative sense of "attractive or enjoyable variation" is from 13c.; that of "slight touch or trace of something" is recorded from 1530s. Meaning "specimen, sample" is from 1790. Early druggists recognized four "types" of spices: saffron, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg.
spice-box (n.)
1520s, from spice (n.) + box (n.1).
spice-cake (n.)
early 15c., from spice (n.) + cake (n.).
spick-and-span (adj.)
also spic-and-span, 1660s, from spick-and-span-new (1570s), literally "new as a recently made spike and chip of wood," from spick "nail" (see spike (n.1)) + span-new "very new" (c. 1300), from Old Norse span-nyr, from spann "chip" (see spoon (n.)) + nyr "new." Imitation of Dutch spiksplinter nieuw "spike-splinter new."
spicule (n.)
1785, from French spicule, from Latin spiculum, diminutive of spica (see spike (n.2)). Related: Spicular.
spicy (adj.)
1560s, from spice (n.) + -y (2). In reference to flowers, breezes, etc., "sweet-smelling," from 1640s. Figurative sense of "racy, salacious" dates from 1844. Related: Spiciness.
spider (n.)
late 14c., spydyr, spither, from earlier spiþre, spiþur, spiþer (mid-14c.), from Old English spiðra, from Proto-Germanic *spin-thron- (cognate with Danish spinder), literally "spinner," from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin" + formative or agential *-thro. The connection with the root is more transparent in other Germanic cognates (such as Middle Low German, Middle Dutch, Middle High German, German spinne, Dutch spin "spider").
The male is commonly much smaller than the female, and in impregnating the female runs great risk of being devoured. The difference in sizes is as if the human female should be some 60 or 70 feet tall. [Century Dictionary]
The loss of -n- before spirants is regular in Old English (compare goose (n.), tooth). For shift of -th- to -d- compare murder (n.), burden (n.), rudder.

Not the common word in Old or Middle English, which identified the creatures as loppe (Chaucer's usual word), lobbe. Old English also had atorcoppe (Middle English attercop, literally "poison-head"), and (from Latin aranea), renge; Middle English had araine, "spider," via Old French from the same Latin word; see arachnid). Another Old English word was gangewifre "a weaver as he goes."

In literature, often a figure of cunning, skill, and industry as well as poisonous predation; in 17c. English used figuratively for poisonousness and thread-spinning but also sensitivity (to vibrations), lurking, independence. As the name for a type of two-pack solitaire, it is attested from 1890. Spider crab is from 1710, used of various species; spider monkey is from 1764, so called for its long limbs.
spider-plant (n.)
1823, said to have been discovered on the coast of the Pacific northwest of North America during Cook's third expedition and so-named by the sailors, "from its striking resemblance to a large spider when it first appears above the surface, before the stem begins to rise from the spherical arrangement of the leaves, or the flagellae begin to creep to any distance from among them to the soil around" [Peter Sutherland, "Journal of a Voyage in Baffin's Bay," 1852]; from spider + plant (n.).
spider-web (n.)
1640s, earlier spider's web (1530s), from spider + web (n.).
spidery (adj.)
1823, "long and thin," from spider + -y (2).
spiel (n.)
"glib speech, pitch," 1896, probably from verb (1894) meaning "to speak in a glib manner," earlier "to play circus music" (1870, in a German-American context), from German spielen "to play," from Old High German spilon (cognate with Old English spilian "to play"). The noun also perhaps from German Spiel "play, game."
spiff (v.)
"make neat or spruce," 1877 (with up or out), probably from spiffy (q.v.). Spiffing "excellent" was very popular in 1870s slang.
spiffy (adj.)
1853, of uncertain origin, probably related to spiff "well-dressed man." Uncertain relationship to spiff (n.) "percentage allowed by drapers to their young men when they effect sale of old fashioned or undesirable stock" (1859), or to spiflicate "confound, overcome completely," a cant word from 1749 that was "common in the 19th century" [OED], preserved in American English and yielded slang spiflicated "drunk," first recorded in that sense 1902.
spigot (n.)
late 14c., "plug used to stop the hole of a cask," according to Barnhart probably from Old French *espigot (compare Gascony dialect espigot "core of a fruit, small ear of grain"), diminutive of Old Provençal espiga "ear of grain," from Latin spica "ear of grain" (see spike (n.2)). Meaning "valve for controlling the flow of a liquid" is from 1520s; the connecting notion is "that which controls or restrains."
spike (v.)
1620s, "to fasten with spikes," from spike (n.1). Meaning "to rise in a spike" is from 1958. Military sense (1680s) means "to disable guns by driving a large nail into the touch-hole." Figurative use of this sense is from 1823. Meaning "to lace (a drink) with liquor" is from 1889. Journalism sense of "to kill a story before publication" (1908) is from the metal spindle in which old-time editors filed hard copy of stories after they were set in type, or especially when rejected for publication. Related: Spiked; spiking.
spike (n.1)
"large nail," mid-14c., perhaps from or related to a Scandinavian word, such as Old Norse spik "splinter," Middle Swedish spijk "nail," from Proto-Germanic *spikaz (source also of Middle Dutch spicher, Dutch spijker "nail," Old English spicing "large nail," Old English spaca, Old High German speihha "spoke"), from PIE root *spei- "sharp point" (source also of Latin spica "ear of corn," spina "thorn, prickle, backbone," and perhaps pinna "pin" (see pin (n.)); Greek spilas "rock, cliff;" Lettish spile "wooden fork;" Lithuanian speigliai "thorns," spitna "tongue of a buckle," Old English spitu "spit").

The English word also might be influenced by and partly a borrowing of Latin spica (see spike (n.2)), from the same root. Slang meaning "needle" is from 1923. Meaning "pointed stud in athletic shoes" is from 1832. Electrical sense of "pulse of short duration" is from 1935.
spike (n.2)
"ear of grain," c. 1300, from Latin spica "ear of grain," from PIE *spei-ko-, from suffixed form of root *spei- "sharp point" (see spine).
spiked (adj.)
"laced with alcohol," 1909, past-participle adjective from spike (v.).
spikenard (n.)
mid-14c., "aromatic substance from an Indian plant, famous perfumed unguent of the ancients," from Medieval Latin spica nardi (see spike (n.2)), rendering Greek nardou stakhys, in which the other element probably ultimately from Sanskrit nalada-, the name of the plant.
spiky (adj.)
1720, from spike (n.1) + -y (2). Related: Spikiness.
spile (n.)
tap or spout for drawing maple sugar, 1844, from Northern English dialect spile "splinter" (1510s), from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German spile "splinter, skewer, bar, spindle," German Speiler "skewer;" perhaps related to spike (n.1).
spill (n.)
1845, originally "a throw or fall from a horse," from spill (v.). Meaning "the spilling of a liquid, amount of spilled stuff" is from 1848.
spill (v.)
Old English spillan "destroy, mutilate, kill," also in late Old English "to waste," variant of spildan "destroy," from Proto-Germanic *spilthjan (source also of Old High German spildan "to spill," Old Saxon spildian "destroy, kill," Old Norse spilla "to destroy," Danish spilde "lose, spill, waste," Middle Dutch spillen "to waste, spend"), from PIE *spel- (1) "to split, break off" (source also of Middle Dutch spalden, Old High German spaltan "to split;" Greek aspalon "skin, hide," spolas "flayed skin;" Lithuanian spaliai "shives of flax;" Old Church Slavonic rasplatiti "to cleave, split;" Middle Low German spalden, Old High German spaltan "to split;" Sanskrit sphatayati "splits").

Sense of "let (liquid) fall or run out" developed mid-14c. from use of the word in reference to shedding blood (early 14c.). Intransitive sense "to run out and become wasted" is from 1650s. Spill the beans recorded by 1910 in a sense of "spoil the situation;" 1919 as "reveal a secret." To cry for spilt milk (usually with negative) is attested from 1738. Related: Spilled; spilt; spilling.
spillage (n.)
1838, from spill (v.) + -age. Shakespeare used spilth "that which has spilled, act of spilling" ("Timon," 1607), which was picked up by Browning, etc.