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spar with (one)
1. Literally, to practice against or train with one, as in boxing. I love sparring with Tom, but I've become too familiar with his personal habits in the ring, so I need to find someone new. Each time we blow the whistle, everyone in the inner circle will move to the left so you can spar with a new opponent.
2. To debate, argue, or quibble with someone (about something). Even though he was an incredibly frustrating guy, I have to admit that I'll miss sparring with him in class each week. The two candidates will spar with one another during a televised debate this coming Saturday.
1. Literally, someone with whom one practices martial arts or boxing. OK, John here is going to be your new sparring partner. He's tougher than you're used to, but he'll help your skills improve.
2. By extension, someone with whom one engages in a debate, argument, or heated discussion, especially when one enjoys doing so. I was sad to hear he wouldn't be in the class next semester—he was my favorite sparring partner during class discussions. The two have been sparring partners on the morning talk show for nearly ten years.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
spar with someone
1. Lit. to box with someone for practice. The champ needs someone to spar with every day. Ted was sparring with his brother when the phone rang and saved him from further exertion.
2. Fig. to argue or quibble with someone. I think you really enjoy sparring with people just to irritate them. stop sparring with me! I am not here to argue.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
An individual with whom one enjoys arguing, as in Jim's my best sparring partner. This expression alludes to boxing, where since about 1900 it has denoted the person one practices or trains with. [Mid-1900s] Also see spar with.
Argue or debate with, as in You'd never know they were happily married, because they're constantly sparring with each other . [Early 1600s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a sparring partner
Someone's sparring partner is someone they enjoy arguing with or discussing things with. My old sparring partner Chris Moyles has got the Radio 1 breakfast show in place of Sara Cox. Note: This expressing comes from boxing, where a sparring partner was someone to practise with.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012