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*(s)p(h)er-

Meanings

1.
strewing, spraying, scattering small particles.
(Notable English members of this family are "spray", "sprout" and "spread" and probably also "sperm" and "spore". Sources don't mention this connection directly, but the Greek ancestor for sperm and spore is also mentioned in context of this root.)

Word Family

Root: *(s)p(h)er-

The core idea of this root was:

strewing, spraying, scattering in small pieces, sowing

Think of blowing on a dandelion in its white stage, or slapping the hand onto a REALLY dusty old sofa.
The original sense is pretty visible in words like to spray, sprout, spurt, sprawl and spritz. 

Here’s an incomplete list of the English family members:

  • to spray 
  • spritz (import from German “spritzen”)
  • to spread (focused on “distribution”, after a burst, cousin of German “spreizen” which is to straddle)
  • to sprout (variation of “spread”, in the sense of growing)
  •  spore (“a small seed spreading”)
  • sperm (“what is sown”, used to refer also to seeds in ancient Greek)
  • sparse (“spread out” with a focus on lack)
  • disperse (“distribute, spread out” with a focus on low density)
  • intersperse (“sprinkle/strew in between”)

 

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