plural sprites
: elf, fairy
: an elfish person
: a disembodied spirit : ghost
archaic : soul
: a form of electrical discharge that sometimes is emitted upwards from the top of a cumulonimbus cloud during a thunderstorm at the same time that lightning strikes downward and that usually appears as a red or reddish-orange flash of light
Atmospheric scientist Walter Lyons and his colleagues … noticed unusual behavior in storms over the plains: They triggered huge numbers of "sprites"—ghostly red glows of excited nitrogen molecules often seen high above violent storms.Robert Irion
: a bitmapped image or repeating loop of images that can move independently on a display often on top of a static background
Sprites are complex mathematically constructed models, sometimes simple (such as a computer cursor) and sometimes more complex, perhaps even humanoid in appearance.Stewart Fist
While the main character and enemy sprites in this … shooter are unusually large and detailed for the era, what really makes this game stand out are the highly detailed backgrounds that stand toe-to-toe with better-known NES games.Chris Freiberg
Gaming has grown from an eight-bit industry with sprites dancing across the cathode ray tube televisions of the '80s and '90s into a $180 billion global juggernaut with an audience that is larger than sports, movies and music combined.Andy Brownfield

Examples of sprite in a Sentence

the child insisted that he'd seen a sprite hiding in the garden told hair-raising stories of sprites and spectral ships
Recent Examples on the Web New footage of that emulated version of the original game shows the same blocky characters, muddy textures, and pixelated sprites that players know (and love?) from the original game. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, 25 Jan. 2023 One of the first major 3D fighting games to make a splash in the era of 2D sprites, the Tekken series has always stood apart as a technical showcase of its time. Christopher Cruz, Rolling Stone, 23 Jan. 2024 Everything about it, from the six buttons per player to the large dynamic sprites and backgrounds, felt larger than life to our teenage brains. Aurich Lawson, Ars Technica, 30 May 2023 The dream allowed Freud to draw out the double meaning of nymphae, signifying both mythological sprites and also, evidently, the labia minora. Anna Shechtman, Harper's Magazine, 9 Feb. 2024 And little is definitively known about them — especially ghosts, the first of which was observed atop a sprite storm over Oklahoma in May 2019. Robin George Andrews, New York Times, 12 Dec. 2023 In the game, players lead a small sprite through landscapes of brushstrokes to solve physics- and color-based puzzles. Gene Park, Washington Post, 26 Aug. 2023 This surreal, mildly creepy tale about house sprites by Hiromi Kawakami. Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times, 19 Aug. 2023 How does ‘magical sprite’ comedian Alex Hooper fight cancer? Julie Seabaugh, Los Angeles Times, 5 Oct. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sprite.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English sprit, from Anglo-French espriz, espirit spirit, sprite — more at spirit

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

Time Traveler
The first known use of sprite was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near sprite

Cite this Entry

“Sprite.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sprite. Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: elf, fairy

More from Merriam-Webster on sprite

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