Definition of sprawl in English:

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Pronunciation: /sprɔːl/


[no object, with adverbial]
1Sit, lie, or fall with one’s arms and legs spread out in an ungainly way: the door shot open, sending him sprawling across the pavement she lay sprawled on the bed
More example sentences
  • A second corpse already lay sprawled at the policeman's boots.
  • Out on the desert white figures lay sprawled dead and dying.
  • The story ends with both lying together sprawled on a bed, as ‘Figures, waiting to be arranged’.
stretch out, lounge, loll, lie, lie down, lie back, recline, drape oneself, be recumbent, be prostrate, be supine, slump, flop, slouch
1.1Spread out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way: the town sprawled along several miles of cliff top (as adjective sprawling) the sprawling suburbs
More example sentences
  • Claiming that Sarah Ferguson comes from Basingstoke is pushing it: she grew up on the 876-acre family farm at Dummer, safely south of the M3, gentility's bulwark against the town which sprawls along the motorway's north side.
  • The towns sprawled out of control, while rural mediocrity fed on itself.
  • Along with the traffic, a city sprawling in all directions and surrounded by mountains, pollution is visible everyday.
spread, stretch, straggle, ramble, trail, spill


[usually in singular]
1An ungainly or carelessly relaxed position in which one’s arms and legs are spread out: she fell into a sort of luxurious sprawl
1.1A group or mass of something that has spread out in an untidy or irregular way: a sprawl of buildings
More example sentences
  • Long treated as a back, it was full of coal stores and junk, and cluttered with a sprawl of buildings added piecemeal over the years.
  • The designer goods are in there, but they must be ferreted out of mass quantities stacked on undifferentiated shelves in an encompassing sprawl.
  • The major inheritance of the Community Councils was vast sprawls of low-quality township housing; rents were a major source of income.
1.2 [mass noun] The disorganized and unattractive expansion of an urban or industrial area into the adjoining countryside: the growth of urban sprawl
More example sentences
  • Many architecture critics go beyond opinion about the aesthetics of individual buildings, including reporting on sprawl and urban development.
  • Urban sprawl is taxing the city's infrastructure; local authorities have identified some $3 billion in much-needed transportation improvements.
  • Urban sprawl and chaos create many planning problems.



Example sentences
  • The first thing one remarks of Paul Manes' paintings of sprawlingly rendered stacked bowls is the complex sensuousness of their surfaces.


Old English spreawlian 'move the limbs convulsively'; related to Danish sprælle 'kick or splash about'. The noun dates from the early 18th century.

Words that rhyme with sprawl

all, appal (US appall), awl, Bacall, ball, bawl, befall, Bengal, brawl, call, caul, crawl, Donegal, drawl, drywall, enthral (US enthrall), fall, forestall, gall, Galle, Gaul, hall, haul, maul, miaul, miscall, Montreal, Naipaul, Nepal, orle, pall, Paul, pawl, Saul, schorl, scrawl, seawall, Senegal, shawl, small, squall, stall, stonewall, tall, thrall, trawl, wall, waul, wherewithal, withal, yawl

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