Origin of splay

1300–50; Middle English; aphetic form of display
Related formsun·splayed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for splay

Historical Examples of splay

  • Norman windows have only one splay on the internal side of the building.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • Like the jambs, the arch has a splay which is divided into small panels.

    Portuguese Architecture

    Walter Crum Watson

  • Does your worship mean to geld and splay all the youth of the city?

    Measure for Measure

    William Shakespeare

  • The window in the east wall has its head and splay of a single stone.

    Romantic Ireland; volume 2/2

    M.F and B. McM. Mansfield

  • No variation, no change; the art of it is to keep almost to the same groove, and not to make the figure broad and splay.

    The Hills and the Vale

    Richard Jefferies

British Dictionary definitions for splay



spread out; broad and flat
turned outwards in an awkward manner


to spread out; turn out or expand
(tr) vet science to dislocate (a joint)


a surface of a wall that forms an oblique angle to the main flat surfaces, esp at a doorway or window opening

Word Origin for splay

C14: short for display
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 splay

"to spread out," early 14c., shortened form of desplayen (see display). Pp. adjective splayed "spread out" is attested from 1540s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper