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  1. an ignited or fiery particle such as is thrown off by burning wood or produced by one hard body striking against another.
  2. Also called sparkover. Electricity.
    1. the light produced by a sudden discontinuous discharge of electricity through air or another dielectric.
    2. the discharge itself.
    3. any electric arc of relatively small energy content.
    4. the electric discharge produced by a spark plug in an internal-combustion engine.
  3. anything that activates or stimulates; inspiration or catalyst.
  4. a small amount or trace of something.
  5. a trace of life or vitality.
  6. sparks, (used with a singular verb) Slang. a radio operator on a ship or aircraft.
  7. (usually initial capital letter) a member of Camp Fire, Inc., who is five years of age.
verb (used without object)
  1. to emit or produce sparks.
  2. to issue as or like sparks.
  3. to send forth gleams or flashes.
  4. (of the ignition of an internal-combustion engine) to function correctly in producing sparks.
verb (used with object)
  1. to kindle, animate, or stimulate (interest, activity, spirit, etc.): These bright students have sparked her enthusiasm for teaching. The arrival of the piano player really sparked the party.

Origin of spark

before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English spearca; cognate with Middle Dutch, Middle Low German sparke; (v.) Middle English sparken; cognate with Middle Dutch, Middle Low German sparken
Related formsspark·less, adjectivespark·less·ly, adverbspark·like, adjective

Synonyms for spark

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[spahrk]Informal: Older Use.
  1. an elegant or foppish young man.
  2. a beau, lover, or suitor.
  3. a woman of outstanding beauty, charm, or wit.
verb (used with object)
  1. to woo; court.
verb (used without object)
  1. to engage in courtship; woo.

Origin of spark

1565–75; figurative use of spark1, or < Old Norse sparkr quick, lively
Related formsspark·ish, adjectivespark·ish·ly, adverbspark·ish·ness, nounspark·like, adjective


  1. Muriel (Sarah) (Camberg),1918–2006, British novelist and writer, born in Scotland. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for spark

Contemporary Examples of spark

Historical Examples of spark

  • Dry and worm-eaten, a spark upon them became a smoulder, and a smoulder a blaze.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • When he heard the drums he flared up like a spark in the tinder.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • Every spark of human feeling had evidently been stifled in him.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • The dark eyes of Antoun lit with a spark of surprise and laughter.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • This was his work, the spark he had kindled was being fanned into a steady blaze.

    Slaves of Mercury

    Nat Schachner

British Dictionary definitions for spark


  1. a fiery particle thrown out or left by burning material or caused by the friction of two hard surfaces
    1. a momentary flash of light accompanied by a sharp crackling noise, produced by a sudden electrical discharge through the air or some other insulating medium between two points
    2. the electrical discharge itself
    3. (as modifier)a spark gap
  2. anything that serves to animate, kindle, or excite
  3. a trace or hintshe doesn't show a spark of interest
  4. vivacity, enthusiasm, or humour
  5. a small piece of diamond, as used in the cutting of glass
  1. (intr) to give off sparks
  2. (intr) (of the sparking plug or ignition system of an internal-combustion engine) to produce a spark
  3. (tr often foll by off) to kindle, excite, or animate
See also spark off, sparks

Word Origin for spark

Old English spearca; related to Middle Low German sparke, Middle Dutch spranke, Lettish spirgsti cinders, Latin spargere to strew


noun rare
  1. a fashionable or gallant young man
  2. bright spark British usually ironic a person who appears clever or wittysome bright spark left the papers next to the open window
  1. rare to woo (a person)
Derived Formssparkish, adjective

Word Origin for spark

C16 (in the sense: beautiful or witty woman): perhaps of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse sparkr vivacious


  1. Dame Muriel (Sarah). 1918–2006, British novelist and writer; her novels include Memento Mori (1959), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), The Takeover (1976), A Far Cry from Kensington (1988), Symposium (1990), and The Finishing School (2004)
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 spark

Old English spearca, from Proto-Germanic *spark- (cf. Middle Low German sparke, Middle Dutch spranke, not found in other Germanic languages). Electrical sense dates from 1748. Slang sense of "a gallant, a beau, a lover" (c.1600) is perhaps a figurative use, but also perhaps from cognate Old Norse sparkr "lively." Spark plug first recorded 1903 (sparking plug is from 1902); figurative sense of "one who initiates or is a driving force in some activity" is from 1941.


c.1300, from spark (n.). Slang meaning "stimulate, to trigger" first attested 1912. Related: Sparked; sparking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with spark


see make the sparks fly.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.