When you sprawl, you spread out in an ungainly way, like when you're lying down comfortably on the sofa with your legs and arms flung out around you.

As a noun, the most common use of this word nowadays is in the phrase "urban sprawl" (or "suburban sprawl"), which describes municipal development — things like new neighborhoods, shopping malls, and office complexes — that spreads out of control, according to no approved plan, and usually with pretty ugly results.

Definitions of sprawl
  1. verb
    sit or lie with one's limbs spread out
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    stand with arms and legs spread out
    type of:
    sit, sit down
    be seated
    be lying, be prostrate; be in a horizontal position
  2. verb
    go, come, or spread in a rambling or irregular way
    synonyms: straggle
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    type of:
    distribute, spread
    distribute or disperse widely
  3. noun
    an ungainly posture with arms and legs spread about
    synonyms: sprawling
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    type of:
    attitude, position, posture
    the arrangement of the body and its limbs
  4. noun
    an aggregation or continuous network of urban communities
    synonyms: conurbation, urban sprawl
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    an industrial conurbation in northeastern China on the southern end of the Liaodong Peninsula; it now includes the cities of Dalian and Lushun
    monotonous urban sprawl of standardized buildings
    type of:
    populated area, urban area
    a geographical area constituting a city or town
Word Family

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