Stories We Like: Novels For Language Lovers
Old English specan, variant of sprecan "to speak" (class V strong verb; past tense spræc, past participle sprecen), from Proto-Germanic *sprekanan (cf. Old Saxon sprecan, Old Frisian spreka, Middle Dutch spreken, Old High German sprehhan, German sprechen "to speak," Old Norse spraki "rumor, report"), cognate with Latin spargere "to strew" (speech as a "scattering" of words; see sparse).
The -r- began to drop out in Late West Saxon and was gone by mid-12c., perhaps from influence of Danish spage "crackle," in a slang sense of "speak" (cf. crack in slang senses having to do with speech, e.g. wisecrack, cracker, all it's cracked up to be). Rare variant forms without -r- also are found in Middle Dutch (speken) and Old High German (spehhan).
Not the primary word for "to speak" in Old English (the "Beowulf" author prefers maþelian, from mæþel "assembly, council," from root of metan "to meet;" cf. Greek agoreuo "to speak," originally "speak in the assembly," from agora "assembly").
A cheap saloon, esp an illegal or after-hours place: It had been a speakeasy once/ All they give you in these speaks is smoke/ one thing that puts a speako over
[1889+; Samuel Hudson, a journalist, says in a 1909 book that he used the term in Philadelphia in 1889 after having heard it used in Pittsburgh by an old Irish woman who sold liquor clandestinely to her neighbors and enjoined them to ''spake asy''; hence related to early 1800s Irish and British dialect spake-aisy or speak softly shop, ''smugglers' den'']