\ 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

Never mind that the Napa locales on these would-be travelers’ itineraries may be hours distant from wineries in sprawling Sonoma. Lettie Teague, WSJ, "The Smart Traveler’s Guide to Sonoma Wine Country," 26 Apr. 2019 Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta is in the heart of Midtown, just a half-mile from the Renzo Piano–designed High Museum of Art and steps from sprawling Piedmont Park. Allison Weiss Entrekin, Condé Nast Traveler, "14 Best Hotels in Atlanta," 27 July 2018 The potholed road to Imran Khan’s home in Islamabad curls for a mile up a steep hill, where the cricketer turned politician can escape the dust, fumes and backstabbing of Pakistan’s sprawling capital below. Time, "Cricket Hero Imran Khan Led Pakistan's Team to Victory. As a Politician, He's Riding a Populist Wave," 28 June 2018 Vintage photographs disclose how in Mexico’s sprawling capital its new republican government erected statues of Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec emperor, while Argentina plowed out lordly avenues in imitation of Haussmann-era Paris. New York Times, "24 Art Exhibitions to View in N.Y.C. This Weekend," 28 June 2018 In sprawling suburban Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, thousands of residents who lived along the Brazos River thought the levees around them protected them from flooding. Emily Foxhall, Houston Chronicle, "In Fort Bend's levee-protected neighborhoods, residents are taking charge," 9 May 2018 Stake tomato plants: Tomatoes are staked to keep the plants from sprawling on the ground where the fruit would be more likely to rot. Dan Gill, NOLA.com, "This week's gardening tips: stake tomato plants and add sod," 29 Apr. 2018 The video follows the song’s moody and mysterious emotional flow, starting with its subdued color palette and sprawling exterior shots that build into surreal splendor as the metaphorical medicine starts to take effect. Bryan Kress, Billboard, "Alae Fall 'Stone Cold' Crazy in Love in New Video: Exclusive," 20 Apr. 2018 And most recently, the Duchess of Sussex was reported to have celebrated her low-key bachelorette party at Soho Farmhouse, the chain's sprawling property in the Cotswolds. Andrea Park, Glamour, "Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Reportedly Took a Secret Trip to Amsterdam Over the Weekend," 25 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Winter squash need room to stretch as their vines sprawl 10 to 15 feet in every direction; train the plants up a trellis or fence to conserve space. Arricca Sansone, Country Living, "16 Types of Squash and Everything You Need to Know About Them," 28 Dec. 2018 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

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

18 May 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

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