Word Origin & History
type of repeating rifle used in the American Civil War, 1863, named for U.S. gunsmith Christopher Spencer, who, with Luke Wheelock, manufactured them in Boston, Mass. The surname is attested from 1275, earlier le Despenser (1204) and means "one who dispenses or has charge of provisions in a household."
M.E. spence meant "larder, pantry," and is aphetic for O.Fr. despense (Fr. dépense) "expense," from despenser "to distribute" (see dispense
). Another form of the word is spender, which also has become a surname.