1. A sudden flood, rush, or outpouring: "It issues a spate of words from the loudspeakers and the politicians" (Virginia Woolf).
2. Chiefly British
a. A flash flood.
b. A freshet resulting from a downpour of rain or melting of snow.
c. A sudden heavy fall of rain.
[Middle English, of unknown origin.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.