Old English springan "to leap, burst forth, fly up; spread, grow," (class III strong verb; past tense sprang, past participle sprungen), from Proto-Germanic *sprengan (source also of Old Norse, Old Frisian springa, Middle Dutch springhen, Dutch Related: springen, Old Saxon and Old High German springan, German springen), from PIE *sprengh-, nasalized form of root *spergh- "to move, hasten, spring" (source also of Sanskrit sprhayati "desires eagerly," Greek sperkhesthai "to hurry").
In Middle English, it took on the role of causal sprenge, from Old English sprengan (as still in to spring a trap, etc.). Meaning "to cause to work or open," by or as by a spring mechanism, is from 1828. Meaning "to announce suddenly" (usually with on) is from 1876. Meaning "to release" (from imprisonment) is from 1900. Slang meaning "to pay" (for a treat, etc.) is recorded from 1906.
"season following winter, first of the four seasons of the year; the season in which plants begin to rise," c. 1400 (earlier springing time, late 14c.), a special sense of an otherwise now-archaic spring (n.) "act or time of springing or appearing; the first appearance; the beginning, birth, rise, or origin" of anything (see spring v., and compare spring (n.2), spring (n.3)).
The notion is of the "spring of the year," when plants begin to rise (as in spring of the leaf, 1520s). The Middle English noun also was used of sunrise, the waxing of the moon, rising tides, sprouting of the beard or pubic hair, etc.; compare 14c. spring of dai "sunrise," spring of mone "moonrise," late Old English spring "carbuncle, pustule."
It replaced Old English lencten (see Lent) as the word for the vernal season. Other Germanic languages tend to take words for "fore" or "early" as their roots for the season name (Danish voraar, Dutch voorjaar, literally "fore-year;" German Frühling, from Middle High German vrueje "early"). In 15c. English, the season also was prime-temps, after Old French prin tans, tamps prim (French printemps, which replaced primevère 16c. as the common word for spring), from Latin tempus primum, literally "first time, first season."
Spring fever is from 1843 as "surge of romantic feelings;" earlier of a type of disease or head-cold prevalent in certain places in spring; Old English had lenctenadle. First record of spring cleaning in the domestic sense is by 1843 (in ancient Persia, the first month, corresponding to March-April, was Adukanaiša, which apparently means "Irrigation-Canal-Cleaning Month;" Kent, p.167). Spring chicken "small roasting chicken" (usually 11 to 14 weeks) is recorded from 1780; transferred sense of "young person" first recorded 1906. Baseball spring training attested by 1889, earlier of militias, etc.
"source of a stream or river, flow of water rising to the surface of the earth from below," Old English spring "spring, source, sprinkling," from spring (v.) on the notion of the water "bursting forth" from the ground. Rarely used alone in Old English, appearing more often in compounds, such as wyllspring "wellspring," espryng "water spring." Figurative sense of "source or origin of something" is attested from early 13c. Cognate with Old High German sprung "source of water," Middle High German sprinc "leap, jump; source of water."
"act of springing or leaping," late 14c., from spring (v.). The elastic wire coil that returns to its shape when stretched is so called from early 15c., originally in clocks and watches. As a device in carriages, coaches, etc., it is attested from 1660s.