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  1. Nautical. a stout pole such as those used for masts, etc.; a mast, yard, boom, gaff, or the like.
  2. Aeronautics. a principal lateral member of the framework of a wing of an airplane.
verb (used with object), sparred, spar·ring.
  1. to provide or make with spars.

Origin of spar1

1250–1300; Middle English sparre (noun); cognate with German Sparren, Dutch spar, Old Norse sparri
Related formsspar·like, adjective


verb (used without object), sparred, spar·ring.
  1. (of boxers) to make the motions of attack and defense with the arms and fists, especially as a part of training.
  2. to box, especially with light blows.
  3. to strike or attack with the feet or spurs, as gamecocks do.
  4. to bandy words; dispute.
  1. a motion of sparring.
  2. a boxing match.
  3. a dispute.

Origin of spar2

1350–1400; Middle English: orig., thrust (noun and v.); perhaps akin to spur1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for sparring


    1. any piece of nautical gear resembling a pole and used as a mast, boom, gaff, etc
    2. (as modifier)a spar buoy
  1. a principal supporting structural member of an aerofoil that runs from tip to tip or root to tip

Word Origin

C13: from Old Norse sperra beam; related to Old High German sparro, Old French esparre


verb spars, sparring or sparred (intr)
  1. boxing martial arts to fight using light blows, as in training
  2. to dispute or argue
  3. (of gamecocks) to fight with the feet or spurs
  1. an unaggressive fight
  2. an argument or wrangle
  3. informal a close friend

Word Origin

Old English, perhaps from spur


  1. any of various minerals, such as feldspar or calcite, that are light-coloured, microcrystalline, transparent to translucent, and easily cleavableRelated adjective: spathic

Word Origin

C16: from Middle Low German spar; related to Old English spærstān; see feldspar
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for sparring



"stout pole," c.1300, "rafter," from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch sparre, from Proto-Germanic *sparron (cf. Old English *spere "spear, lance," Old Norse sperra "rafter, beam"), from PIE root *sper- "spear, pole" (see spear (n.1)). Nautical use dates from 1640. Also borrowed in Old French as esparre, which may have been the direct source of the English word.



"to box," c.1400, "to strike or thrust," perhaps from Middle French esparer "to kick," from Italian sparare "to fling," from Latin ex- (see ex-) + parare "make ready, prepare," hence "ward off, parry" (see pare). Used in 17c. in reference to preliminary actions in a cock fight; figurative sense of "to dispute, bandy with words" is from 1690s. Extension to humans, with meaning "to engage in or practice boxing" is attested from 1755. Related: Sparred; sparring.



"shiny mineral that splits easily," 1580s, from Low German Spar, from Middle Low German *spar, sper, cognate with Old English spær- in spærstan "gypsum."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper