Pronunciation Noun

spate (plural spates)

  1. A river flood; an overflow or inundation.
    • 17thC, Thomas Browne (translator), To a friend intending a difficult work, from a Latin original, published in Collected works of Sir Thomas Browne (1836),
      Only let your language match your subject, then it will be shapely and free; but take care all the time not to overwhelm your work in a spate of words to attain the fluency of Isaeus; and that it slip not out too freely, avoid the danger of Strada.
    • c.1856-1885, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Gareth and Lynette, in Idylls of the King,
      The last tall son of Lot and Bellicent,
      And tallest, Gareth, in a showerful spring
      Stared at the spate. A slender-shafted Pine
      Lost footing, fell, and so was whirled away.
    • 1900, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Great Boer War,
      At Odendaal, where he had hoped to cross, the river was in spate, the British flag waved from a post upon the further side, and a strong force of expectant Guardsmen eagerly awaited him there.
    • 1902, Jack London, A Daughter of the Snows,
      The glacial drip was already in evidence, and every creek in roaring spate.
    • 1910, John Buchan, Prester John,
      At the edge of the burn, where the path turns downward, there is a patch of shingle washed up by some spate.
  2. A sudden rush or increase.
    • 1887, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thrawn Janet, in The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables,
      He couldnae weel tell how - maybe it was the cauld to his feet - but it cam' in upon him wi' a spate that there was some connection between thir twa, an' that either or baith o' them were bogles.
    • 1964, United States Supreme Court, Reynolds v. Sims: Opinion of the Court,
      The spate of similar cases filed and decided by lower courts since our decision in Baker [v. Carr] amply shows that the problem of state legislative malapportionment is one that is perceived to exist in a large number of the States.
    • 2009 April, Australia Tibet Council, Australia Tibet Council report: Courting The Dragon,
      A recent spate of controversies, including Chinese mineral giant Chinalco’s Rio Tinto bid and revelations of hushed meetings between the Chinese propaganda chief and Australian media bosses, have once again brought the issue of our deepening relationship with China to the fore.
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