\ ˈsplā How to pronounce splay (audio) \
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

The 28-year-old ran out the store and saw a man in a blue shirt splayed on the asphalt of 61st Street, blood pooling around his head. Alice Yin, chicagotribune.com, "Man, woman in critical condition after shooting in front of 7-Eleven in Chicago Lawn," 1 July 2019 Windblown dunes writhe over its surface; mountains, hills and canyons splay across the landscape. Shannon Stirone, Scientific American, "New NASA Mission Will Fly Titan’s Frigid Skies to Search for Life’s Beginnings," 27 June 2019 And what Forbice's street view catches can be downright disturbing: One woman, wearing a simple bubble-gum- pink button down, snaps a photo of a woman in a dress splayed out on the sidewalk who is presumably drunk or maybe dead. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "How Rihanna’s Footwear Designer Created the Creepiest Lookbook Of The Year," 16 July 2018 So, at this point, the three big floor joists were splayed out into the air. Ryan D'agostino, Popular Mechanics, "How to Build a Treehouse in the Backyard," 23 Jan. 2019 The skirt, when splayed out, is an image of two people shaking hands over a Singapore skyline; one arm wearing the North Korean flag, the other wearing an American flag. Chavie Lieber, Vox, "Miss Universe Singapore’s pageant dress is a giant mural of Trump and Kim Jong Un shaking hands," 29 Nov. 2018 Migrants are splayed out on cold concrete floors, huddled beneath sparse tree cover as border agents circle in helicopters above, and lined up in a row, handcuffed, illuminated by the blue lights of police vehicles. Azam Ahmed, New York Times, "Where Fear and Hope Collide: Images From Mexican Border, and Beyond," 25 Mar. 2018 Men wore wide-legged trousers and and strappy, body-baring harness-style tops while women wore a simplistic high-necked red dresses, the skirts of which splayed out in strips with each twirl. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "The New York City Ballet Hosts a Fall Gala to Remember With Costumes by Gareth Pugh, Alberta Ferretti, and Giles Deacon," 28 Sep. 2018 But those numbers aren’t splayed across billboards and shown in countless mini marts across America. Scott Mcfetridge, The Seattle Times, "Mega Millions, Powerball prizes come down to math, long odds," 23 Oct. 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

16 Jul 2019

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with splay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


an act or instance of editing or removing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!