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Contributor(s): Catherine Werst

A sprite is a fairy or an elf. Derived from the Latin spiritus or spirit, it also once meant "soul" or "ghost."

1) On the Web and in multimedia productions, a sprite is a graphic image, usually animated, that a user can interact with and move around. The term is also sometimes used to simply refer to an animated GIF with spritelike features.

In multimedia presentations and Web sites that use multimedia, a sprite is usually an individually animated element in a larger graphic image or set of images. There are special editors for developing sprites that let you specify rules for their behavior: how they can be moved and what should happen when they interact with other graphic elements. Sprites are frequently part of game technology and some games basically consist of a sprite and its rules for moving within a graphic background (think of a ball in a pin-ball machine). On the Web, this kind of sprite may require downloading a plug-in .

2) In meteorology, a sprite is a phenomenon that occurs at the top of some thunderclouds, a very large but only briefly observable red flash. Because of the difficulty of being in a position to observe them and their short life, sprites were not discovered until recently. To observe one, the thunderclouds need to be on the distant horizon against a night background. They occur infrequently and randomly. You can learn more about them on the Web.

3) A Sprite is a famous sports car model from the British car maker, Austin-Healey.

This was last updated in April 2005

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