1719, from sprawl (v.); meaning "straggling expansion of built-up districts into surrounding countryside" is from 1955.
Old English spreawlian "move convulsively," with cognates in the Scandinavian languages (such as Norwegian sprala, Danish sprælle) and North Frisian spraweli, probably ultimately from PIE root *sper- (4) "to strew" (see sprout (v.)). Meaning "to spread out" is from c. 1300. That of "to spread or stretch in a careless manner" is attested from 1540s; of things, from 1745. Related: Sprawled; sprawling.
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