from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • v. A past tense and a past participle of spit1.
  • n. An oyster or similar bivalve mollusk in the larval stage, especially when it settles to the bottom and begins to develop a shell.
  • n. The spawn of an oyster or a similar mollusk.
  • intransitive v. To spawn. Used of oysters and similar mollusks.
  • n. A cloth or leather gaiter covering the shoe upper and the ankle and fastening under the shoe with a strap. Often used in the plural.
  • n. A brief quarrel.
  • n. Informal A slap or smack.
  • n. A spattering sound, as of raindrops.
  • intransitive v. To engage in a brief quarrel.
  • intransitive v. To strike with a light spattering sound; slap.
  • transitive v. Informal To slap.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The spawn of shellfish, especially oysters and similar molluscs.
  • v. To spawn. Used of shellfish as above.
  • n. A covering or decorative covering worn over a shoe.
  • n. (UK, Australia) A piece of bodywork that covers the upper portions of the rear tyres of a car.
  • n. a brief argument, fall out, quarrel
  • v. to quarrel or argue briefly
  • n. An obsolete unit of distance in astronomy (symbol S), equal to one billion kilometres.
  • v. Simple past tense and past participle of spit.
  • v. To strike with a spattering sound.
  • v. To slap, as with the open hand; to clap together, as the hands.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • imp. of spit.
  • n. A young oyster or other bivalve mollusk, both before and after it first becomes adherent, or such young, collectively.
  • n. A light blow with something flat.
  • n. Hence, a petty combat, esp. a verbal one; a little quarrel, dispute, or dissension.
  • n. A legging; a gaiter.
  • n. A kind of short cloth or leather gaiter worn over the upper part of the shoe and fastened beneath the instep; -- chiefly in pl.
  • v. To emit spawn; to emit, as spawn.
  • intransitive v. To dispute.
  • transitive v. To slap, as with the open hand; to clap together; as the hands.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To spatter; defile.
  • To spawn, as an oyster; shed spat.
  • To shed or emit (spawn), as an oyster.
  • To give a light blow to, especially with the flat of the hand; strike lightly; slap: as, to spat dough; to spat one's hands together.
  • To engage in a trivial quarrel or dispute; have a petty contest.
  • A preterit of spit.
  • n. A spot; stain; place.
  • n. The spawn of shell-fish; specifically, the spawn of the oyster; also, a young oyster, or young oysters collectively, up to about the time of their becoming set, or fixed to some support. See
  • n. A light blow or slap.
  • n. A large drop; a spatter: as, two or three spats of rain fell.
  • n. A petty contest; a little quarrel or dissension.
  • n. A gaiter or legging.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. become permanently attached
  • v. clap one's hands or shout after performances to indicate approval
  • n. a young oyster or other bivalve
  • v. come down like raindrops
  • v. spawn
  • v. engage in a brief and petty quarrel
  • n. a quarrel about petty points
  • v. strike with a sound like that of falling rain
  • v. clap one's hands together
  • n. a cloth covering (a legging) that covers the instep and ankles


Middle English.
Short for spatterdash : spatter + dash1.
Origin unknown.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English spittan, spætan (Wiktionary)
Of uncertain origin; perhaps related to spit. (Wiktionary)
Shortening of spatterdash, from spatter + dash. 1779. (Wiktionary)
1804. American English, unknown origin. (Wiktionary)
Attested from 1823. (Wiktionary)
Latin spatium ("space") (Wiktionary)


  • The decided _spat, spat, spat_ of the reversing blows from the caulked boots sounded like picket firing.

    Americans All Stories of American Life of To-Day

  • He des keep on agoin ', _spat, spat, spat_, an' when he come out front de

    The Price

  • Joeboy raised first one and then another great stone upon the edge as he was told, and Denham stepped up directly to look between them, but bobbed his head and stepped down again directly, for _spat, spat, spat_, three rifle-bullets struck the stones and fell rattling down.

    Charge! A Story of Briton and Boer

  • _spat, spat, spat_, three bullets struck stones near us, making it evident that we were well in view, and that the Boers were making targets of the different members of the group.

    Charge! A Story of Briton and Boer

  • Do you disagree with Professor Tamanaha's statement that the question has been begged, the question being whether or not what Kmiec, in true apologist form, tries to minimize as a "spat" is something about which reasonable minds can disagree, rather than dealing with a fundamentally flawed, non-viable, unreasonable argument?


  • Kind of reminds one of little children in a name calling spat using big words that they have heard, but have no knowledge of what they mean.

    Tea-baggers Are A Riot

  • The word spat so unexpectedly into her ear had precisely the effect Grey must have intended.

    The Wizard Of London

  • That is why every sailor in the world, outside the doggeries of Hamburg, felt his calling spat upon and his personal pride injured by the sinking of the _Lusitania_ -- by a sailor.

    Raemaekers' Cartoons With Accompanying Notes by Well-known English Writers

  • Moratinos, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency until June, grounded his optimism on his impression that both Macedonia and Greece are making their utmost efforts to resolve their bilateral name spat, which is the only obstacle for the start of accession talks with Skopje.

    Hurriyet Dailynews

  • He is dressed in a red jacket with white cuffs, a black and white waistcoat and matching hound's tooth pattern bow tie and trousers with 'spat'-type shoes.

    Home | Mail Online


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  • And sprats. And mollusque.

    January 26, 2012

  • Makes me think of the spawn of shell-fish; specifically, the spawn of the oyster; also, a young oyster, or young oysters collectively, up to about the time of their becoming set, or fixed to some support. And a gaiter or legging.

    January 26, 2012

  • "Spat" makes me think of arguments. And shoes.

    January 26, 2012

  • I think it's dialectical, isn't it? Depends where you're from.

    I suppose it could be spreading by analogy with hit, fit and quit.

    January 26, 2012

  • I keep hearing "spit" used as its own past tense (e.g. "Yesterday I spit a watermelon seed nearly twelve yards") and I think to myself What's wrong with "spat"? We have a perfectly good past tense form available to us -- why aren't we using it?

    It can't just be because "spat" is an irregular past tense. If that were the problem, then we'd be seeing an equivalent drop-off in other irregular past tenses, like "taught" or "wept", but nobody is going around saying "I weep last Saturday, because my girlfriend teach me the meaning of the word 'dump'." It sounds ridiculous, right? So why doesn't it sound equally ridiculous to say "Yesterday I spit a watermelon seed"?

    January 26, 2012

  • Men with their bowlers
    Kids with their spats
    Ladies with chauffeurs
    Dogs wearing hats and jackets
    Rich apartments
    Old punk posters
    Tartan garments.

    (Mornington Crescent, by Belle and Sebastian)

    December 13, 2009

  • The gingham dog and the calico cat
    Side by side on the table sat;
    'T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
    Nor one nor t' other had slept a wink!
    The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
    Appeared to know as sure as fate
    There was going to be a terrible spat.
    (I was n't there; I simply state
    What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

    - Eugene Field, 'The Duel'.

    September 14, 2009

  • I'm thinking of the cheap vinyl spats that they force upon marching band members, usually to cover huge, white shoes.

    July 17, 2007

  • So were we, u--it *is* the past tense of spit, as trivet says. But there were so many of us that I guess no one bothered to challenge us. ;-)

    July 17, 2007

  • But it *is* the past tense of spit, unless you are cooking - who would want to eat a spat/roasted chicken?

    July 17, 2007

  • I was raised to say spat as the past tense of spit. I never heard the end of it as a kid! What a freak I was.

    July 17, 2007

  • Hey! I like the shoe spats - they're so debonair.

    July 17, 2007

  • And the past tense of spit.

    July 17, 2007

  • And a petty quarrel.

    July 17, 2007

  • Ugly shoe covers that cover even uglier shoes.

    July 17, 2007

  • a young oyster

    July 17, 2007

  • obs. astronomic measurement of about 1e12 meters.

    December 10, 2006