spell (n.1) Look up spell at Dictionary.com
Old English spell "story, saying, tale, history, narrative, fable; discourse, command," from Proto-Germanic *spellam (see spell (v.1)). Compare Old Saxon spel, Old Norse spjall, Old High German spel, Gothic spill "report, discourse, tale, fable, myth;" German Beispiel "example." From c. 1200 as "an utterance, something said, a statement, remark;" meaning "set of words with supposed magical or occult powers, incantation, charm" first recorded 1570s; hence any means or cause of enchantment.
The term 'spell' is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will -- unlike charms for healing, protection, etc. ["Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore"]
Also in Old English, "doctrine; a sermon; religious instruction or teaching; the gospel; a book of the Bible;" compare gospel.
spell (v.2) Look up spell at Dictionary.com
"work in place of (another)," 1590s, earlier spele, from Old English spelian "to take the place of, be substitute for, represent," related to gespelia "substitute," of uncertain origin. Perhaps related to spilian "to play" (see spiel). Related: Spelled; spelling.
spell (n.2) Look up spell at Dictionary.com
1620s, "a turn of work in place of another," from spell (v.2); compare Old English gespelia "a substitute." Meaning shifted toward "continuous course of work" (1706), probably via notion of shift work (as at sea) where one man or crew regularly "spelled" another. Hence "continuous stretch" of something (weather, etc.), recorded by 1728. Hence also, via the notion in give a spell (1750) "relieve another by taking a turn of work" came the sense "interval of rest or relaxation" (1845), which took the word to a sense opposite what it had at the start.
spell-check (v.) Look up spell-check at Dictionary.com
"to use a computer's spell checker application on a document," by 1985, from spell (v.) + check (v.1). The applications themselves date to the late 1970s. Related: Spell-checked; spell-checking.
spellbind (v.) Look up spellbind at Dictionary.com
"to bind by or as if by spell," 1808, probably a back-formation from spellbound. Related: Spellbinding; spellbinder.
spellbound (adj.) Look up spellbound at Dictionary.com
"to be bound by or as if by a spell," 1742, from spell (n.1) + bound (adj.1) "fastened," past participle of bind (v.).
speller (n.) Look up speller at Dictionary.com
c. 1200, "a preacher;" mid-15c. apparently in the sense "a person who reads letter by letter;" 1864 of a book to teach orthography. Agent noun from spell (v.1).
spelling (n.) Look up spelling at Dictionary.com
mid-15c., "action of reading letter by letter," verbal noun from spell (v.1). Meaning "manner of forming words with letters" is from 1660s; meaning "a way a word has been spelled" is from 1731. Spelling bee is from 1878 (see bee; earlier spelling match, 1845; the act of winning such a schoolroom contest is described 1854 as to spell (someone) down).
spelt (n.) Look up spelt at Dictionary.com
type of grain, Old English spelt "spelt, corn," perhaps an early borrowing from Late Latin spelta "spelt" (noted as a foreign word), which is perhaps from Germanic *spilt-, from PIE *speld-, extended form of root *spel- (1) "to split, to break off" (probably in reference to the splitting of its husks in threshing); see spill (v.).

The word had little currency in English, and its history is discontinuous. Widespread in Romanic languages (Italian spelta, Spanish espelta, Old French spelte, Modern French épeautre). The word also is widespread in Germanic (Old High German spelta, German Spelt), and a Germanic language is perhaps the source of the Late Latin word.
spelunk (n.) Look up spelunk at Dictionary.com
"a cave, cavern, a vault," c. 1300, from Old French spelonque (13c.) or directly from Latin spelunca "a cave, cavern, grotto," from Greek spelynx (accusative spelynga, genitive spelyngos) "a cave, cavern," from spelos "a cave." An adjective, speluncar "of a cave" is recorded from 1855.
spelunker (n.) Look up spelunker at Dictionary.com
"a cave bug; one who explores caves as a hobby," 1942, agent noun formed from obsolete spelunk "cave, cavern." The verb spelunk "explore caves" and the verbal noun spelunking are attested from 1946 and appear to be back-formations.
Spencer (n.) Look up Spencer at Dictionary.com
surname attested from late 13c. (earlier le Despenser, c. 1200), literally "one who dispenses or has charge of provisions in a household." Middle English spence meant "larder, pantry," and is short for Old French despense (French dépense) "expense," from despenser "to distribute" (see dispense). Another form of the word is spender, which also has become a surname.

As a type of repeating rifle used in the American Civil War, 1863, named for U.S. gunsmith Christopher Spencer, who, with Luke Wheelock, manufactured them in Boston, Mass.
Spencerian (adj.) Look up Spencerian at Dictionary.com
1863, pertaining to the penmanship system devised by American penman Platt R. Spencer, the "Father of American Writing" (1800-1864), who c. 1840 began promoting an elliptical cursive style that became the standard U.S. business hand from 1850s to early 20c. It had an assured but joyous elegance lacking in the later Palmer letters. The word also can be a reference to English philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903).
spend (v.) Look up spend at Dictionary.com
"to pay out or away" (money or wealth), Old English -spendan (in forspendan "use up"), from Medieval Latin spendere, a shortening of Latin expendere "to weigh out money, pay down" (see expend) or possibly of dispendere "to pay out." A general Germanic borrowing (Old High German spendon, German and Middle Dutch spenden, Old Norse spenna). In reference to labor, thoughts, time, etc., attested from c. 1300. Intransitive sense "exhaust, wear (oneself) out" is from 1590s (see spent).
spending (n.) Look up spending at Dictionary.com
late Old English, verbal noun from spend (v.). Spending-money is from 1590s.
spendthrift (n.) Look up spendthrift at Dictionary.com
c. 1600, from spend (v.) + thrift (n.) in sense of "savings, profits, wealth." Replaced earlier scattergood (1570s) and spend-all (1550s). From c. 1600 as an adjective.
Spenserian (adj.) Look up Spenserian at Dictionary.com
1817, from Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599), Elizabethan poet (for the origin of the surname, see Spencer). Spenserian stanza, which he employed in the "Faerie Queen," consists of eight decasyllabic lines and a final Alexandrine, with rhyme scheme ab ab bc bcc.

"The measure soon ceases to be Spenser's except in its mere anatomy of rhyme-arrangement" [Elton, "Survey of English Literature 1770-1880," 1920]; it is the meter in Butler's "Hudibras," Scott's "Lady of the Lake," and notably the "Childe Harold" of Byron, who found (quoting Beattie) that it allowed him to be "either droll or pathetic, descriptive or sentimental, tender or satirical, as the humour strikes me; for, if I mistake not, the measure which I have adopted admits equally of all these kinds of composition."
spent (adj.) Look up spent at Dictionary.com
"consumed," mid-15c., past participle adjective from spend. Of time, "passed, over," from 1520s; as "worn out, exhausted from overwork," 1560s.
sperate (adj.) Look up sperate at Dictionary.com
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.) Look up sperm at Dictionary.com
"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.) Look up spermaceti at Dictionary.com
"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.) Look up spermatic at Dictionary.com
late 14c., from Old French spermatique and directly from Late Latin spermaticus, from sperma (see sperm).
spermato- Look up spermato- at Dictionary.com
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.) Look up spermatogenesis at Dictionary.com
1877, earlier in German, from comb. form of Greek sperma "seed" of an animal or plant (see sperm) + -genesis "birth, origin, creation."
spermatozoa (n.) Look up spermatozoa at Dictionary.com
plural of spermatozoon, 1836.
spermatozoon (n.) Look up spermatozoon at Dictionary.com
(plural spermatozoa), "male sexual cell," 1836, from spermato- + Greek zoion "animal" (see zoo-). Related: Spermatozoal.
spermicide (n.) Look up spermicide at Dictionary.com
1929; see sperm + -cide. Earlier was spermacide (1908) and spermaticide (1923), from French, where it is recorded by 1876.
spessartite (n.) Look up spessartite at Dictionary.com
manganese garnet, 1853, earlier spessartine (1837), from French spessartine (1832), from Spessart, district in Bavaria where it is found.
spew (v.) Look up spew at Dictionary.com
Old English spiwan "spew, spit," from Proto-Germanic *spiew- (cognates: 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 (cognates: 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.) Look up spew at Dictionary.com
"vomited matter," c. 1600, from spew (v.).
sphagnum (n.) Look up sphagnum at Dictionary.com
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.
spheno- Look up spheno- at Dictionary.com
before vowels sphen-, word-forming element meaning "wedge," from comb. form of Greek sphen "a wedge," probably cognate with Old Norse spann "splinter," Old English spon "chip of wood" (see spoon (n.)).
sphenoid (adj.) Look up sphenoid at Dictionary.com
1732, from spheno- + -oid. As a noun from 1828. Related: Sphenoidal.
sphere (n.) Look up sphere at Dictionary.com
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," 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.) Look up spherical at Dictionary.com
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.) Look up spheroid at Dictionary.com
"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.) Look up sphincter at Dictionary.com
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.) Look up sphinx at Dictionary.com
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.
sphygmo- Look up sphygmo- at Dictionary.com
word-forming element meaning "pulse," from comb. form of Greek sphygmos "a pulse," from sphyzein "to throb, pulse, beat."
sphygmomanometer (n.) Look up sphygmomanometer at Dictionary.com
1891, from sphygmo- "pulse" + manometer.
spic (n.) Look up spic at Dictionary.com
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.) Look up Spica at Dictionary.com
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.) Look up spicate at Dictionary.com
1660s, "having spikes," from Latin spicatus, past participle of spicare "to furnish with spikes," from spica (see spike (n.2)).
spice (n.) Look up spice at Dictionary.com
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 (v.) Look up spice at Dictionary.com
"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-box (n.) Look up spice-box at Dictionary.com
1520s, from spice (n.) + box (n.1).
spice-cake (n.) Look up spice-cake at Dictionary.com
early 15c., from spice (n.) + cake (n.).
spick-and-span (adj.) Look up spick-and-span at Dictionary.com
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.) Look up spicule at Dictionary.com
1785, from French spicule, from Latin spiculum, diminutive of spica (see spike (n.2)). Related: Spicular.
spicy (adj.) Look up spicy at Dictionary.com
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.