This word is just not coming to mind. The closest I can think of are "arms and legs asunder" but that conjures up some pretty graphic and unintended imagery. Same with spread-eagle which is the first term that came to mind.

My question is, is there some word to describe a person laying on the ground with there arms and legs spread that doesn't carry the same sexual connotations as spread-eagle. Example:

She lay ____ on her back after she had fallen from the jungle gym, the air knocked from her lungs.

The part where other words I can think of (such as haphazardly) don't fit, is that spread-eagle seems to imply lying down which is something I would like the alternative to do as well though without the sexual connotations.

  • 8
    I'd just use "spread-eagle" -- a perfectly good term -- and let dirty minds think what they would think anyway. (Though note that the term doesn't imply lying down, necessarily, simply having arms and legs in an X.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 23:33
  • 3
    You could just say "flat on her back"...
    – Tim Ward
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 23:45
  • 3
    Examples of non-sexual connotations: "The police had him spread-eagled against the wall" or "This sailor was frequently punished by having his hands and legs fastened to the rigging, the punishment being known as the Spread Eagle".
    – Graffito
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 0:14
  • 1
    If you must use a different term you might consider "splayed out". (Though UD tells us that one has nasty associations as well.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 1:47
  • 3
    Spreadeagle is a sexual position? (Wipes the dust off her 1970s "Joy of Sex" manual.) "Oh, my" :-)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 11:06

7 Answers 7


I've never heard of spread-eagle, where I come from, people say spread out. Nice to come across new expressions :)

She lay spread out on her back after she had fallen from the jungle gym, the air knocked from her lungs.


Hmm, tough to find an exact fit, though in the place of a sentence like that I often see the following words (though these tend to specify the positioning of the object in question):

(from merriam-webster)

See this one quite commonly used


lying with the front of your body facing downward

or, less commonly


lying with the front of your body turned toward the ground

A less imaginative alternative is of course flat

  • 1
    These are OP's best bet. A quick Google for "define prostrate" shows the following synonyms which may also work: prone, lying flat, lying down, stretched out, spread-eagled, sprawling, horizontal, recumbent. Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 3:17
  • 1
    I don't know -- my prostrate gives me a lot of trouble!! I'd advise staying away from that one.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 22:34

He was asprawl on the ground.
He was sprawled on the ground.


A verb to describe her action would be "splay," and you could describe her as "splayed out." I think that verb evokes the violently-spread word "flay," but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be used.

An adjective for that pose would be "supine," though it's not very casual.

Also, "flat on her back" is a colloquial phrase. You might not need to detail the legs in disarray if you've already written that she fell. People will likely envision that she's in a heap, given the scenario.

  • Alternative: She lay starfished on the ground.
    – Daron
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 0:15

The non-sexual term for “spread-eagle” is “spread-eagle.”

The analogy is to the giant extended wingspan of an eagle.


You might consider "Vitruvian posture".

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    – user140086
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 5:51

The natural fit, from your description, is 'akimbo'. It is used with an adverbial sense that would fit verbatim in your example sentence,

A. adv.
2. More generally: askew, awry; in disorder.

["akimbo, adv. and adj.". OED Online. December 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/4463?redirectedFrom=akimbo (accessed February 08, 2016).]

And so your example:

She lay akimbo on her back after she had fallen from the jungle gym, the air knocked from her lungs.

More usually, however, 'akimbo' is used with specific reference to the limbs involved:

b. With reference to (other) limbs, esp. the legs: spread or flung out widely or haphazardly.

(op. cit.)

Then your example would be something like this:

She lay on her back, arms and legs akimbo, after she had fallen from the jungle gym, the air knocked from her lungs.

This latter formulation has the grace to stylistically mimic the sense of the sentence (four clauses--arms and legs--somewhat breathlessly resembling something of disarray).

  • I think akimbo (after reading the definition and carrying out an image search) involves "placing your hands on your hips with elbows turned outwards". What the OP describes (if I understand it correctly) is lying down on your back with your hands and legs stretched(possibly) and facing the sky...The OP can confirm, maybe. (I didn't downvote)
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 13:50
  • @BiscuitBoy, interesting. Just out of curiosity, how do you explain the definitions I've cited? Those definitions represent a distillation of the uses of the word encountered by lexicographers in the wild, of course. And the reason the word came to mind for me is that I've encountered it in literature and in-person use with the senses I've cited from the dictionary. I'm wondering if the availability of WWW resources isn't circumscribing the use of language in surprising ways.
    – JEL
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 19:20
  • I don't know -- according to Urban Dictionary akimbo means to fire two guns at once. Kinda belligerent, I think.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 22:38

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