So, I had a random realization that sparse and Spartan can mean fairly similar things. E.g a sparse apartment could equally be described as a Spartan apartment.

I tried looking into this, but my search stopped with the fact that sparse comes from the Latin spargere, which means to scatter, and that Spartan, of course, comes from the Greek region of Sparta, who were known for loving austere lifestyles.

I was thinking that perhaps the Latin word spargere/sparsus may have come from Sparta, since Rome borrowed a lot of things from Greek civilization already? My guess is I'm off-base, and it's just a coincidence... But figured I'd see if anyone could determine either way more conclusively here 😁

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    This is probably a question about Latin etymology, not English.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 24, 2019 at 2:07
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    @user067531 I.e., ← Lt. ← proto-It., ← proto Indo-European *sper- "to spread, sow"
    – Kris
    Nov 24, 2019 at 7:03
  • @NigelJ In that sense, it's a question about PIE.
    – Kris
    Nov 24, 2019 at 7:04
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    As for "Sparta", The name is said to be from Greek sparte "cord made from spartos," a type of broom, from PIE spr-to-, from root sper- (2) "to turn, twist" (etymonline) -- that way, it turns out that the PIE sper does indeed lie at the root of both the words, though each comes from a different sense of the same (PIE word) sper.
    – Kris
    Nov 24, 2019 at 7:09

3 Answers 3


It depends!

In one view, the etymological root of Sparta isn't secure. So the answer to your question is maybe! But it's kind of unlikely that the Spartans were named for being frugal, if you think about, and it doesn't seem as if that's what you meant. In that sense, the root of a word is what it has meant for the longest time--otherwise the root of all words would be "ook!" or "uga-uga", which is a matter of debate. Most people do not draw the comparison to "sparse", where as we lexicalize "Spartan" as a proper name without any deeper sense. I suspect that's one aspect of your question. So, you are smarter than them in this respect, but perhaps too smart, because, until further notice, the answer has to be: No! This is in principle the extend of how far an answer has to go on ELU.

Further: @Kris' remark is notable, both words might be connected through a common root, but how big and indirect the distance is between them would be decisive for calling them related at all. So the answer is: Yes?!?. But it's far from certain.

@vectory alleged a comparison to spared. This is indeed one semantic connotation of venerable age for Latin servus "slave", at least, and possibly for slave, if from a sense "to get the spoils of war". Even if those might not be the correct etymologies, it's not said that the ancients necessarily knew that. So, my answer is: I guess so. But I wouldn't pay it much attention. But the point is, that's quite a different sense of to spare than we would think of today.

We can say at least that -se and -ta do, obviously, I guess, not reflect the same morpheme.


Look to the Germanic/Norse. Spare means to save up. When someone is sparsome they are thrifty. Sparse/spare, meaning few or meager, comes from that root. Spartan is a descriptor of Spartan culture, which is military severe. I used to think there was a connection between destroy and Troy, as in "make something like Troy, annihilate it." Sometimes a logical connection between similar words is only coincidental.

  • Well, if troy was destroyed many times, the spartans are ones that were spared, and relocated to a legionary colony, hence the lack of luxury. It all makes sense! haha, good thinking!
    – vectory
    Dec 1, 2019 at 21:55
  • We may use "comments" to post our opinions. This doesn't make for an answer.
    – Kris
    Dec 3, 2019 at 11:33
  • I posted an answer, concluding, with an example, that the similarity is probably coincidental. Your previous comment seems like another answer. Why note post it as such?
    – JMR
    Dec 3, 2019 at 18:33

They most probably do have the same root.

The word "Sparta" (Σπάρτη) originates from the word "spartos" (σπαρτός), which in Ancient Greek had two senses: sow, and scattered/sparse. The city was called Sparta because it's soldiers would scatter their enemies in any attack. Many Latin words are borrowed from the Ancient Greek, and the chances of this being entirely a coincidence, in my humble opinion, are slim.

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