late 14c., "go quickly, rush, dart, spring;" c. 1400, "to strike or thrust," perhaps from 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.