\ 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



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

Verb 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 lifeless body with head tilting back and arms splaying open portrays a vivid realism uncharacteristic of the late 19th century. Alice George, Smithsonian, "Sculptor Edmonia Lewis Shattered Gender and Race Expectations in 19th-Century America," 25 July 2018 The wolf’s chest is super narrow; the legs are closer together, and the feet may splay out. Washington Post, "Hints From Heloise: Of dogs and wolves," 14 Sep. 2019 Undercooked zucchini and jalapeño splayed out like spokes in a wheel defined Aldaco’s celebrated Centerpiece salad, intercut with hard avocado slices and thick panela cheese with a char of mottled skin clinging like wet bark. Mike Sutter, ExpressNews.com, "Review: Aldaco’s Mexican Cuisine restaurant is mid-level Mexican food in San Antonio’s Stone Oak," 22 Aug. 2019 At the start of Polachek’s new visual, she’s pictured dutifully scrubbing the deck of a ship, her hair splaying outward from a thick braid that snakes down her neck. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Caroline Polachek Is Bringing Back Pirate Style for Her Latest Video," 7 Aug. 2019 Huseynov stared at his big, work-swollen shepherd’s hands splayed palm down on the worn tablecloth. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, "A storyteller chronicles the mass migrations that define our age," 17 July 2019 Magneto, neck taut, expertly splays his fingers and manipulates the chopper with two rigid, reaching hands. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, "Dark Phoenix Is Trash, But the Hand Work Is Pretty OK?," 6 June 2019 Minutes later, Jessica and Alex find this broken and bloody Bryce splayed out on the pier. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "This Is Exactly Who Killed Bryce Walker & Why In 13 Reasons Why Season 3," 24 Aug. 2019 John Hanna, who splays his fandom for Elon Musk’s companies on his Twitter profile, ordered a Model 3 Tuesday evening and drove it home the following afternoon. Bloomberg, latimes.com, "Elon Musk’s quest for Tesla deliveries record could be a double-edged sword," 30 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun To crown it all: an erupting splay of salad greens, the most flamboyant staging of frisée and red oak lettuce in town. Los Angeles Times, "Review: At Bon Temps in Downtown L.A., the brilliant desserts are only the beginning," 29 Aug. 2019 Miss’s stakes splay open; Fair casts hers in rubber. BostonGlobe.com, "An artist’s love letter to feminist forebears," 17 July 2019 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 entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about splay

Statistics for splay

Last Updated

5 Nov 2019

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


How to pronounce splay (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for splay

Rhyming Dictionary: 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).


to spread as a report or rumor

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!