early 14c., "unfold, unfurl;" c. 1400, "to spread out," shortened form of desplayen (see display (v.)). Meaning "to spread out awkwardly" is from 1848. Past participle adjective splayed "spread out" is attested from 1540s.
Entries linking to splay
c. 1300, "unfold, spread out, unfurl" (a banner, etc.), from Old French desploiir (Modern French déployer) "unfold, unfasten, spread out" (of knots, sealed letters, etc.), from Latin displicare "to scatter," in Medieval Latin "to unfold," from dis- "un-, apart" (see dis-) + plicare "to fold" (from PIE root *plek- "to plait").
Properly of sails or flags (and unconnected to play); meaning "reveal, exhibit, expose to view" is late 14c.; sense of "reveal unintentionally, allow to be seen" is from c. 1600. Related: Displayed; displaying.
word-forming element of Latin origin meaning 1. "lack of, not" (as in dishonest); 2. "opposite of, do the opposite of" (as in disallow); 3. "apart, away" (as in discard), from Old French des- or directly from Latin dis- "apart, asunder, in a different direction, between," figuratively "not, un-," also "exceedingly, utterly." Assimilated as dif- before -f- and to di- before most voiced consonants.
The Latin prefix is from PIE *dis- "apart, asunder" (source also of Old English te-, Old Saxon ti-, Old High German ze-, German zer-). The PIE root is a secondary form of *dwis- and thus is related to Latin bis "twice" (originally *dvis) and to duo, on notion of "two ways, in twain" (hence "apart, asunder").
In classical Latin, dis- paralleled de- and had much the same meaning, but in Late Latin dis- came to be the favored form and this passed into Old French as des-, the form used for compound words formed in Old French, where it increasingly had a privative sense ("not"). In English, many of these words eventually were altered back to dis-, while in French many have been altered back to de-. The usual confusion prevails.
As a living prefix in English, it reverses or negatives what it is affixed to. Sometimes, as in Italian, it is reduced to s- (as in spend, splay, sport, sdain for disdain, and the surnames Spencer and Spence).
It forms all or part of: accomplice; application; apply; complex; complexion; complicate; complication; complicity; deploy; display; duplex; duplicate; duplicity; employ; explicate; explicit; exploit; flax; implex; implicate; implication; implicit; imply; multiply; perplex; perplexity; plait; plash (v.2) "to interlace;" pleat; -plex; plexus; pliable; pliant; plie; plight (n.1) "condition or state;" ply (v.1) "work with, use;" ply (v.2) "to bend; ply (n.) "a layer, fold;" replica; replicate; replication; reply; simplex; splay; triplicate.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit prasna- "turban;" Greek plekein "to plait, braid, wind, twine," plektos "twisted;" Latin plicare "to lay, fold, twist," plectere (past participle plexus) "to plait, braid, intertwine;" Old Church Slavonic plesti "to braid, plait, twist," Russian plesti; Gothic flahta "braid;" Old Norse fletta, Old High German flehtan "to plait;" Old English fleax "cloth made with flax, linen."
He splayed his huge hands over the table
These birds can splay out their toes