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.