\ˈsplā \
splayed; splaying; splays

Definition of splay 

(Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to cause to spread outward

2 : to make oblique : bevel

intransitive verb

1 : to extend apart or outward especially in an awkward manner

2 : slope, slant



Definition of splay (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a slope or bevel especially of the sides of a door or window



Definition of splay (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : turned outward splay knees

Examples of splay in a Sentence


He sat with his legs splayed apart. She splayed her fingers to show off her manicure. His fingers splayed out over the table as he steadied himself.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Boeing’s solution is to split the tail, splay them, and put them in areas that can capture higher air pressure, which accounts for the funky rear of the render. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "How Boeing's Hypersonic Passenger Plane Concept Works," 26 June 2018 Williams’s splayed fingers mirroring Olympia’s outstretched arms with a clear, plastic barrier still separating mother and child. New York Times, "Starring Serena Williams as Herself," 27 Apr. 2018 The bird balances skillfully on a delicate branch, its wings splayed out against the backdrop of a dark night’s sky, its majestic power frozen for a moment in time by wildlife photographer Steve Mattheis. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Peep the Stunning Winners of the Audubon Society’s Photo Contest," 6 July 2018 Lakeith Stanfield is elegantly splayed across a small settee in the lobby bar of his tony SoHo hotel. Allison P. Davis, GQ, "The Bizarre Brilliance of Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson in Sorry to Bother You," 3 July 2018 The 13 bald eagles were found lifeless on a Maryland farm more than two years ago, many with wings splayed, bodies intact, and talons clenched. Karin Brulliard And Dana Hedgpeth, baltimoresun.com, "Thirteen bald eagles were found dead in a field in Maryland. This is what killed them.," 20 June 2018 Guided by ultrasound, an incision in Alysha’s uterus exposed the baby’s chest and arms, which the surgeons splayed out, like a gymnast at the end of a routine — chest up, back arched. Emily Sohn, Washington Post, "A tumor growing on her baby’s heart forced this pregnant mom to make a terrifying choice," 29 Apr. 2018 Press your heels together and splay your knees out so that they are opened up wider than your hips. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "A Quick Equipment-Free Butt Workout From Celebrity Trainer Erin Oprea," 27 June 2018 June says in voiceover at the end, splayed out like a crime scene chalk outline and left unblinking on the bed. refinery29.com, "Handmaid’s Tale," 20 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Rather than a single cavern with a rectangular opening flap on the top, this hauler unzips around the sides and splays open into two halves, each with a mesh zippered cover. Ariella Gintzler, Outside Online, "Testing Adventure-Ready Travel Bags from Eagle Creek," 10 May 2018 In a time of postmodern splay, Monk is here to stay. Giovanni Russonello, New York Times, "At 100, Thelonious Monk Gets a Hero’s Celebration," 30 Oct. 2017 Words in languages current, ancient and legendary splay across its doors, bumpers and hatches, predicting a future in which the people of the world are united. Danielle Ohl, baltimoresun.com, "Bus trip: A local artist and documentary crew are hunting for a Woodstock icon," 7 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'splay.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of splay


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


circa 1508, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for splay


Middle English, short for displayen — more at display

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about splay

Statistics for splay

Last Updated

24 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for splay

The first known use of splay was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for splay



English Language Learners Definition of splay

: to move (things, especially your legs, fingers, etc.) out and apart from each other

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on splay

See words that rhyme with splay

Spanish Central: Translation of splay

Nglish: Translation of splay for Spanish Speakers

Comments on splay

What made you want to look up splay? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


obstinately defiant of authority

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!