from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Nautical A wooden or metal pole, such as a boom, yard, or bowsprit, used to support sails and rigging.
  • noun A usually metal pole used as part of a crane or derrick.
  • noun A main structural member in an airplane wing or a tail assembly that runs from tip to tip or from root to tip.
  • transitive verb To supply with spars.
  • transitive verb Obsolete To fasten with a bolt.
  • noun A nonmetallic, readily cleavable, translucent or transparent light-colored mineral with a shiny luster, such as feldspar.
  • intransitive verb To fight with an opponent in a short bout or practice session, as in boxing or the martial arts.
  • intransitive verb To make boxing or fighting motions without hitting one's opponent.
  • intransitive verb To bandy words about in argument; dispute.
  • intransitive verb To fight by striking with the feet and spurs. Used of gamecocks.
  • noun A motion of attack or defense in boxing.
  • noun A sparring match.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To shut, close, or fasten with a bar or a bolt; bar; fasten in any way.
  • To furnish with or form by the use of spars; supply a spar or spars to: as, to spar a ship or a mast.
  • To aid (a vessel) over a shallow bar by the use of spars and tackles: a device frequently in use on the western rivers of the United States.
  • noun In mineralogy, a general term formerly employed, but rather vaguely, to include a large number of crystalline minerals having a bright but non-metallic luster, especially when breaking readily into fragments with smooth surfaces.
  • To rush forward in attack; make an onset.
  • To rise and strike with the shanks or spurs; fight, as cocks, with the spurs protected with leather pads, so that the birds cannot injure each other.
  • To make the motions of attack and defense with the arms and closed fists; use the hands in or as if in boxing, either with or without boxing-gloves; practise boxing.
  • To bandy words; engage in a wordy contest, either angrily or humorously.
  • noun A stick or piece of wood of considerable length in proportion to its thickness; a stout pole; a large cudgel.
  • noun A bar used for fastening a gate or door, or the like; hence, a bolt.
  • noun Specifically— A round stick of timber, or a stout pole, such as those used for the masts, yards, booms, etc., of ships. and for the masts and jibs of derricks.
  • noun One of the common rafters of a roof, as distinguished from the principal rafters; also, one of the sticks used as rafters in a thatched roof.
  • noun A pole lashed to a carriage to hold it up, in place of a disabled wheel.
  • noun A preliminary sparring action: a flourish of the arms and fists in putting one's self in the attitude of boxing.
  • noun A sparring-match; a contest of boxing or striking; also, a cock-fight in which the contending cocks are not permitted to do each other serious harm, or in which they have their spurs covered with stuffed leather pods, so that they cannot cut each other.
  • noun A wordy contest; a skirmish of words.
  • noun A sparoid fish; any species of Sparus. Rawlinson, Anc. Egypt.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A contest at sparring or boxing.
  • noun A movement of offense or defense in boxing.
  • noun (Naut.) A general term any round piece of timber used as a mast, yard, boom, or gaff.
  • noun (Arch.) Formerly, a piece of timber, in a general sense; -- still applied locally to rafters.
  • noun obsolete The bar of a gate or door.
  • noun (Naut.) a buoy anchored by one end so that the other end rises above the surface of the water.
  • noun (Naut.) the upper deck of a vessel; especially, in a frigate, the deck which is continued in a straight line from the quarter-deck to the forecastle, and on which spare spars are usually placed. See under Deck.
  • noun (Naut.) a torpedo carried on the end of a spar usually projecting from the bow of a vessel, and intended to explode upon contact with an enemy's ships.
  • noun (Min.) An old name for a nonmetallic mineral, usually cleavable and somewhat lustrous; It was especially used in the case of the gangue minerals of a metalliferous vein.
  • noun etc. See under Blue, Cube, etc.
  • transitive verb obsolete To bolt; to bar.
  • transitive verb To To supply or equip with spars, as a vessel.
  • intransitive verb To strike with the feet or spurs, as cocks do.
  • intransitive verb To use the fists and arms scientifically in attack or defense; to contend or combat with the fists, as for exercise or amusement; to box.
  • intransitive verb colloq. To contest in words; to wrangle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb To fight, especially as practice for martial arts or hand-to-hand combat.
  • verb to bolt, bar.
  • noun mineralogy any of various microcrystalline minerals, of light, translucent, or transparent blee, which are easily cleft
  • noun mineralogy any crystal with no readily discernible faces.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English sparre, rafter.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Low German, from Middle Low German; akin to Old English spær- (in spær-stān, gypsum).]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English sparren, to thrust or strike rapidly, perhaps from obsolete French esparer, to kick, from Old Italian sparare, to fling : s-, intensive pref.; see sforzando + parare, to ward off; see parry.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English sparren ("to thrust or strike rapidly"), from Old English sperran, spirran, spyrran ("to strike, strike out at, spar"), related to Low German sparre ("a struggling, striving"), German sich sperren ("to struggle, resist, oppose"), Icelandic sperrask ("to kick out at, thrust, struggle").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English sparren ("to close, bar"), from Old English sparrian ("to bar, shut"), from Proto-Germanic *sparrjanan (“to bolt, bar”), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)per- (“beam, bar”). Cognate with Old High German sparran, sperren, Old Norse sperra.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle Low German spar, sper ("spar"); or from a backformation of sparstone ("spar"), from Middle English sparston ("gypsum, chalk"), from Old English spærstān ("gypsum"). Related to German Sparkalk ("plaster"), Old English spæren ("of plaster, of mortar").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English sparre ("spar, rafter, beam"), from Old Norse sparri ("rafter, beam, peg"), from Proto-Germanic *sparrô (“stake, beam”), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)par- (“beam, log”). Cognate with Dutch spar ("balk"), German Sparren ("rafter, spar"), Danish sparre ("spar"). Related to spear, park.


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  • I'm partial to the OED's definition: "..a number of crystalline minerals more or less lustrous in appearance and admitting of easy cleavage."

    August 12, 2008

  • Don't forget it's an acronym for the Coast Guard Women's Reserve. Acronym from "Semper Paratus, Always Ready." :) I always think of those sharp uniforms whenever I see the word.

    August 12, 2008

  • I wonder if the OED's definition applies also to the Coast Guard Women's Reserve.

    August 12, 2008

  • Let's hope not.

    August 12, 2008

  • Men who have loved the ships they took to sea,

    Loved the tall masts, the prows that creamed with foam,

    Have learned, deep in their hearts, how it might be

    That there is yet a dearer thing than home.

    The decks they walk, the rigging in the stars,

    The clean boards counted in the watch they keep—

    These, and the sunlight on the slippery spars,

    Will haunt them ever, waking and asleep.

    - David Morton, 'Mariners'.

    September 21, 2009