\ ˈsprȯl How to pronounce sprawl (audio) \
sprawled; sprawling; sprawls

Definition of sprawl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a archaic : to lie thrashing or tossing about
b : to creep or clamber awkwardly
2 : to lie or sit with arms and legs spread out
3 : to spread or develop irregularly or without restraint bushes sprawling along the road sprawling suburbs a sprawling narrative

transitive verb

: to cause to spread out carelessly or awkwardly sprawled out her books on the table



Definition of sprawl (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the act, posture, or condition of sprawling
2 : an irregularly spread or scattered group or mass

Examples of sprawl in a Sentence


The kids sprawled on the floor to watch TV. She tripped and went sprawling into the table. The city sprawls along the coastline. The bushes were sprawling along the road.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The sprawling Automotive Enviro Testing facility there specializes in frigid-weather testing for many large auto manufacturers. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "All-Season Tires: Can They Really Handle Winter Weather?," 28 Jan. 2019 With only one episode left in the season, time is running out to wrap up Season 4's sprawling storylines. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Sophie Skelton Talks Bree's Outlander Confrontation," 21 Jan. 2019 From sprawling farmhouses to backyard barbecue ideas, Country Living offers soulful and spirited how-tos that embrace slowing down and living well. Country Living, "Contact the Editors and Get Help for Your Country Living Subscription," 4 Jan. 2019 Location: Chatham, New York Price: $1,995,000 Located about three hours north of New York City, this sprawling retreat in the Catskill mountains allows for plenty of room to stretch out. Megan Barber, Curbed, "19th-century estate with picture-perfect red barn wants $2M," 6 Dec. 2018 Waltham’s sprawling office parks also generate a large share of the city’s property tax revenue, especially compared with nearby municipalities, where homeowners foot most of the bills. Tim Logan, BostonGlobe.com, "Live where you work? In Waltham, that’s not so easy," 8 July 2018 McKenzie plays the resourceful Tom, who lives in the woods of a sprawling Oregon park with her dad, Will (Ben Foster), a war veteran struggling with PTSD. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, "Exclusive video: See why critics say 'Leave No Trace' star is the next Jennifer Lawrence," 29 June 2018 The redevelopment will create new amenities including a sprawling rooftop park, a food hall and other ground-floor retail. Ryan Ori, chicagotribune.com, "Walgreens to move 1,800 workers to Old Post Office, including 1,300 from Deerfield HQ," 15 June 2018 The sprawling complex of 770 units on 70 acres on Robert Trent Jones Drive in west Orlando has racked up $3.5 million in code enforcement fines, one of the highest totals ever in the city. Paul Brinkmann, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Metrowest condos rack up $3.5M in fines for construction defects," 24 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The LiDAR analysis also shows that Maya cities and surrounding settlements sprawl for miles around city centers, connected by a web of roads and dense grids of farm fields. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Flake & Co. try to tame partisan wildfire," 28 Sep. 2018 In the past five years, home exchange has gained traction in the U.S. as—thanks to the success of Airbnb and VRBO—more vacationing Americans have discovered that staying in a home versus a hotel can yield more comfort and space to sprawl. Donna Bulseco, WSJ, "The Secret to Scoring a Vacation Home That’s (Practically) Free," 11 Jan. 2019 In contrast to the sprawl that blights many other classical festivals, Ojai is a concentrated burst of intellectual energy, easily reached just outside Los Angeles. ojaifestival.org Tanglewood LENOX, MASS., JUNE 15-SEPT. David Allen, New York Times, "15 Classical Music Festivals to See This Summer," 17 May 2018 Baltimore’s highway system was built to carry drivers into, out of and around the city, and hasn’t changed much to account for job sprawl in suburban areas, said Mike Kelly, executive director of the Metropolitan Council. Colin Campbell, baltimoresun.com, "'The traffic is horrible': Baltimore commute ranks among nation's longest," 18 June 2018 Part of Luang Prabang’s modesty is attributable to its geography: The town is situated on a finger of land encircled by the Mekong on one side and the Nam Kahn River on the other; the sprawl that might otherwise happen here is physically impossible. Hanya Yanagihara, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Luang Prabang Is the Ideal Southeast Asian City," 20 Nov. 2018 Humidity is oppressive, but air conditioning is artificial; snakes and gators are dangerous, but so is the suburban sprawl that threatens their habitat. Constance Grady, Vox, "We read all 25 National Book Award finalists for 2018. Here’s what we thought.," 15 Nov. 2018 But as 10,000 new bikes sprawl over the city, Seattle's latest transport revolution is pitting residents against each other, with the programs' fans and foes arguing over its effect on the city. Mark Harris, WIRED, "The Bike Share War Is Shaking Up Seattle Like Nowhere Else," 14 June 2018 The San Francisco Volcanic Field north of Flagstaff is home to more than 600 extinct volcanoes that sprawl over the edge of the Colorado Plateau from Williams to the Little Colorado River. Mare Czinar, azcentral, "Volcanoes in Arizona: Sunset Crater hike shows off eruption's aftermath," 12 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of sprawl


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sprawl


Middle English, from Old English sprēawlian

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Statistics for sprawl

Last Updated

9 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sprawl

The first known use of sprawl was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for sprawl



English Language Learners Definition of sprawl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to lie or sit with your arms and legs spread wide apart
: to spread or develop in an uneven or uncontrolled way



English Language Learners Definition of sprawl (Entry 2 of 2)

: a group of things (such as buildings) that cover an area in an uneven and ugly way


\ ˈsprȯl How to pronounce sprawl (audio) \
sprawled; sprawling

Kids Definition of sprawl

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to lie or sit with arms and legs spread out
2 : to spread out unevenly The city of Madison sprawls between two lakes …— Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons



Kids Definition of sprawl (Entry 2 of 2)

: the act or posture of spreading out

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More from Merriam-Webster on sprawl

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sprawl

Spanish Central: Translation of sprawl

Nglish: Translation of sprawl for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sprawl for Arabic Speakers

Comments on sprawl

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