spread-ea·​gle | \ ˈspred-ˌē-gəl How to pronounce spread-eagle (audio) \
spread-eagled; spread-eagling\ ˈspred-​ˌē-​g(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce spread-eagling (audio) \

Definition of spread-eagle

 (Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to execute a spread eagle (as in skating)
2 : to stand or move with arms and legs stretched out : sprawl

transitive verb

1 : to stretch out into the position of a spread eagle
2 : to spread over



Definition of spread-eagle (Entry 2 of 3)

: marked by bombast and boastful exaggeration especially of the greatness of the U.S. spread-eagle oratory

spread eagle


Definition of spread eagle (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : a representation of an eagle with wings raised and legs extended
2 : something resembling or suggestive of a spread eagle specifically : a skating figure executed with the skates heel to heel in a straight line

Examples of spread-eagle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There was the little boy who flung himself on the carpet, spread eagle-style; the student from Japan who became physically sick when his parents left; and several students who sobbed for hours. Dani Blum, New York Times, "Dress Rehearsals, 20 Quick Hugs: Our Readers Share Their Drop-Off Hacks," 17 Apr. 2020 On the final point, a service return by Medvedev that sailed long, Nadal collapsed on his back, lay spread eagle for several moments and screamed into the night air. David Waldstein, New York Times, "Rafael Nadal Wins the U.S. Open to Claim His 19th Grand Slam Title," 8 Sep. 2019 Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo sneaked in behind the hosts' defence and slid his attempt past the spread eagle keeper to level things up, not only in the tie but also in the title chase, however, Los Blancos held the upper hand in the head-to-head. SI.com, "Espanyol vs Barcelona Match Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More," 3 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'spread-eagle.' 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 spread-eagle


1826, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1


1853, in the meaning defined above


1550, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for spread-eagle


from the spread eagle on the Great Seal of the U.S.

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Time Traveler for spread-eagle

Time Traveler

The first known use of spread-eagle was in 1550

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Cite this Entry

“Spread-eagle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spread-eagle. Accessed 28 May. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on spread-eagle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spread-eagle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with spread-eagle

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