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  1. a long, stabbing weapon for thrusting or throwing, consisting of a wooden shaft to which a sharp-pointed head, as of iron or steel, is attached.
  2. a soldier or other person armed with such a weapon; spearman: an army of 40,000 spears.
  3. a similar weapon or stabbing implement, as one for use in fishing.
  4. the act of spearing.
  1. spear side.
verb (used with object)
  1. to pierce with or as with a spear.
verb (used without object)
  1. to go or penetrate like a spear: The plane speared through the clouds.

Origin of spear1

before 900; Middle English (noun), Old English spere; cognate with Dutch, German speer
Related formsspear·er, noun


  1. a sprout or shoot of a plant, as a blade of grass or an acrospire of grain.
verb (used without object)
  1. to sprout; shoot; send up or rise in a spear or spears.

Origin of spear2

1520–30; variant of spire1, perhaps influenced by spear1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for spear

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • One of them gave me his spear, which was very blunt, and I sharpened it for him.

  • Let him then name the gentleman with whom he would break a spear.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • This is what happened: from one of the shenzis you traded a spear, or a spear was given you.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • "A shenzi has killed Mavrouki with a spear," the man answered her question.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • If our men get to fooling with their women, they'll spear the lot of us!

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

British Dictionary definitions for spear


  1. a weapon consisting of a long shaft with a sharp pointed end of metal, stone, or wood that may be thrown or thrust
  2. a similar implement used to catch fish
  3. another name for spearman
  1. to pierce (something) with or as if with a spear
Derived Formsspearer, noun

Word Origin

Old English spere; related to Old Norse spjör spears, Greek sparos gilthead


  1. a shoot, slender stalk, or blade, as of grass, asparagus, or broccoli

Word Origin

C16: probably variant of spire 1, influenced by spear 1
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 spear


Old English spere, from Proto-Germanic *speri (cf. Old Norse spjör, Old Saxon, Old Frisian sper, Dutch speer, Old High German sper, German Speer "spear"), from PIE root *sper- "spear, pole" (cf. Old Norse sparri "spar, rafter," and perhaps also Latin sparus "hunting spear").


"sprout of a plant," 1540s, variant of spire.


1755, from spear (n.1). Related: Speared; spearing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper