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

  • intransitive v. To sit or lie with the body and limbs spread out awkwardly.
  • intransitive v. To spread out in a straggling or disordered fashion: untidy tenements sprawling toward the river.
  • transitive v. To cause to spread out in a straggling or disordered fashion.
  • n. A sprawling position or posture.
  • n. Haphazard growth or extension outward, especially that resulting from real estate development on the outskirts of a city: urban sprawl.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To sit with the limbs spread out.
  • v. To spread out in a disorderly fashion; to straggle.
  • n. An ungainly sprawling posture.
  • n. A straggling, haphazard growth, especially of housing on the edge of a city.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The position or state resulting from sprawling.
  • intransitive v. To spread and stretch the body or limbs carelessly in a horizontal position; to lie with the limbs stretched out ungracefully.
  • intransitive v. To spread irregularly, as vines, plants, or trees; to spread ungracefully, as chirography.
  • intransitive v. To move, when lying down, with awkward extension and motions of the limbs; to scramble in creeping.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To toss the limbs about; work the arms and legs convulsively; in general, to struggle convulsively.
  • To work one's way awkwardly along with the aid. of all the limbs; crawl or scramble.
  • To be spread out in an ungraceful posture; be stretched out carelessly and awkwardly.
  • To have an irregular, spreading form or outline; straggle: said of handwriting, vines, etc.
  • To widen or open irregularly, as a body of cavalry.
  • To spread out ungracefully.
  • n. The act of sprawling.
  • n. A sprawling posture; an awkward recumbent attitude: as, to be stretched out in a careless sprawl.
  • n. Motion; activity.
  • n. A small twig or branch of a tree; a spray.
  • n. Ability to spread one's self or to make a show or ‘splurge’; ‘go.’

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. go, come, or spread in a rambling or irregular way
  • n. an aggregation or continuous network of urban communities
  • n. an ungainly posture with arms and legs spread about
  • v. sit or lie with one's limbs spread out


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

Middle English sprawlen, from Old English sprēawlian, to writhe; see sper- in Indo-European roots.


  • Theer's more kick an 'sprawl [Footnote: _Kick an' sprawl_ -- Strength, vitality.] in me than theer 'ave bin; an' I feels more hopeful like 'bout the future. "

    Lying Prophets

  • There is the familiar variety of mess, which we call sprawl; but there is another kind of mess that tends towards the singularity--the too-neat desk where the mess has been brought without resolving it into a singularity, where the will-to-mere-neatness has overruled the will-to-actual-order.

    Archive 2007-04-01

  • But the model of their "sprawl" is quite a bit different: Zoom in and look closely; there's agricultural lands and woodland interspersed among the residential areas.

    Welcome, viewers in Villers-le-Bouillet! (Jack Bog's Blog)

  • But as Austin Bramwell points out at The American Conservative sprawl is also central planning:

    Matthew Yglesias » Centrally Planned Suburbia

  • We also have spontaneous interactions with our neighbors, to a much greater degree than people living in sprawl-style suburbs.

    Matthew Yglesias » All Planning is Planning

  • As soon as he posted his rude reply, the blogosphere lit up with arguments from progressive, conservative, and even libertarian writers claiming that sprawl is the result of central planning [...]

    Matthew Yglesias » Centrally Planned Suburbia

  • The evidence that sprawl is the result of zoning strikes me as being rather weak.

    Matthew Yglesias » Centrally Planned Suburbia

  • The authors of Suburban Nation tell Gore and Bush to listen up — the antidote to sprawl is good old-fashioned town planning

    The Great Reset

  • There may be some sprawl still (if sprawl is considered low-density growth as pointed out to me in another post), but nothing compared to the growth in density.

    Redefining Self-Sufficiency « PubliCola

  • Their sprawl is so that even their suburbs have become major cities or metro areas: San Jose and Oakland with SF, Newark and Long Island with NYC, and Yokohama and Chiba with Tokyo.

    Tunnel Construction Could Be Delayed One Year « PubliCola


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  • The Quality Of Sprawl

    Sprawl is the quality

    of the man who cut down his Rolls-Royce

    into a farm utility truck, and sprawl

    is what the company lacked when it made repeated efforts

    to buy the vehicle back and repair its image.

    Sprawl is doing your farm work by aeroplane, roughly,

    or driving a hitchhiker that extra hundred miles home.

    It is the rococo of being your own still centre.

    It is never lighting cigars with ten dollar notes:

    that's idiot ostentation and murder of starving people.

    Nor can it be bought with the ash of million dollar deeds.

    Sprawl lengthens the legs; it trains greyhounds on liver and beer.

    Sprawl almost never says, Why not?, with palms comically raised

    nor can it be dressed for, not even in running shoes worn

    with mink and a nose ring. That is Society. That's Style.

    Sprawl is more like the thirteenth banana in a dozen

    or anyway the fourteenth.

    Sprawl is Hank Stamper in Never Give an Inch

    bisecting an obstructive official's desk with a chain saw.

    Not harming the official. Sprawl is never brutal,

    though it's often intransigent. Sprawl is never Simon de Montfort

    at a town-storming: Kill them all! God will know His own.

    Knowing the man's name this was said to might be sprawl.

    Sprawl occurs in art. The fifteenth to twenty-first

    lines in a sonnet, for example. And in certain paintings.

    I have sprawl enough to have forgotten which paintings.

    Turner's glorious Burning of the Houses of Parliament

    comes to mind, a doubling bannered triumph of sprawl -

    except he didn't fire them.

    Sprawl gets up the noses of many kinds of people

    (every kind that comes in kinds) whose futures don't include it.

    Some decry it as criminal presumption, silken-robed Pope Alexander

    dividing the new world between Spain and Portugal.

    If he smiled in petto afterwards, perhaps the thing did have sprawl.

    Sprawl is really classless, though. It is John Christopher Frederick Murray

    asleep in his neighbours' best bed in spurs and oilskins,

    but not having thrown up:

    sprawl is never Calum, who, in the loud hallway of our house

    reinvented the Festoon. Rather

    it's Beatrice Miles going twelve hundred ditto in a taxi,

    No Lewd Advances, no Hitting Animals, no Speeding,

    on the proceeds of her two-bob-a-sonnet Shakespeare readings.

    An image of my country. And would that it were more so.

    No, sprawl is full gloss murals on a council-house wall.

    Sprawl leans on things. It is loose-limbed in its mind.

    Reprimanded and dismissed,

    it listens with a grin and one boot up on the rail

    of possibility. It may have to leave the Earth.

    Being roughly Christian, it scratches the other cheek

    And thinks it unlikely. Though people have been shot for sprawl.

    by Les Murray.

    The great Australian poet 'by whom our language lives'

    February 9, 2011

  • Señor García

    descends a staircase

    hopping on one hand.

    Three steps down,

    not unnaturally,

    he sprains his wrist

    and sprawls in the sawdust.

    - Peter Reading, The Terrestrial Globe, from Diplopic, 1983

    June 29, 2008