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Old English spreawlian "move convulsively," with cognates in the Scandinavian languages and North Frisian spraweli, probably ultimately from PIE root *sper- "to strew" (see sprout (v.)). Meaning "to spread or stretch in a careless manner" is attested from 1540s; of things, from 1745. Related: Sprawled; sprawling.
1719, from sprawl (v.); meaning "straggling expansion of built-up districts into surrounding countryside" is from 1955.
[1871+; fr the Hebrew name of a unit of weight and money]