noun, plural sprats, (especially collectively) sprat for 1.

a species of herring, Clupea sprattus, of the eastern North Atlantic.
a small or inconsequential person or thing.

Origin of sprat

1590–1600; variant of earlier sprot, Middle English, Old English (cognate with German Sprott); apparently same word as Old English sprott sprout, twig (for the two meanings cf. sprag2); akin to Old English spryttan to sprout
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sprat

Historical Examples of sprat

  • They 'swallowed the engagement as if it had been a sprat in the mouth of a whale.'


    James Anthony Froude

  • "We will throw a sprat to catch a herring," quoted Momsey cheerfully.

  • Theyre wondering who this sprat is that we are asked to swallow.

    The Bishop's Apron

    W. Somerset Maugham

  • And yet it was not always easy for the sprat to catch the whale.

  • Butler, Sprat, and Martin Clifford are named as his coadjutors.

    The Age of Dryden

    Richard Garnett

British Dictionary definitions for sprat



a small marine food fish, Clupea sprattus, of the NE Atlantic Ocean and North Sea: family Clupeidae (herrings)See also brisling
any of various small or young herrings

Word Origin for sprat

C16: variant of Old English sprott; related to Middle Low German sprott, Norwegian sprot small rod
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 sprat

"small European herring," 1590s, variant of sprot, from Old English sprot "a small herring," related to Dutch sprot, and probably connected to sprout.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper