Entries linking to bespread
word-forming element of verbs and nouns from verbs, with a wide range of meaning: "about, around; thoroughly, completely; to make, cause, seem; to provide with; at, on, to, for;" from Old English be- "about, around, on all sides" (the unstressed form of bi "by;" see by (prep.)). The form has remained by- in stressed positions and in some more modern formations (bylaw, bygones, bystander).
The Old English prefix also was used to make transitive verbs and as a privative prefix (as in behead). The sense "on all sides, all about" naturally grew to include intensive uses (as in bespatter "spatter about," therefore "spatter very much," besprinkle, etc.). Be- also can be causative, or have just about any sense required. The prefix was productive 16c.-17c. in forming useful words, many of which have not survived, such as bethwack "to thrash soundly" (1550s) and betongue "to assail in speech, to scold" (1630s).
c. 1200, "to stretch out, to lay out; diffuse, disseminate" (transitive), also "to advance over a wide area" (intransitive); probably from Old English sprædan "to spread, stretch forth, extend" (especially in tosprædan "to spread out," and gesprædung "spreading"), from Proto-Germanic *spreit- (source also of Danish sprede, Old Swedish spreda, Middle Dutch spreiden, Old High German and German spreiten "to spread"), extended form of PIE root *sper- (4) "to strew" (see sprout (v.)).
Reflexive sense of "to be outspread" is from c. 1300; that of "to extend, expand" is attested from mid-14c. Transitive sense of "make (something) wide" is from late 14c. As an adjective from 1510s. Related: Spreading.