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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.
See also: spar

sparring partner

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.
See also: partner, spar
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.
See also: spar
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

sparring partner

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.
See also: partner, spar

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]
See also: spar
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.
See also: partner, spar
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
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References in periodicals archive ?
Kevin Dryden executed his form with power and confidence to take second place and was also fourth in the sparring.
In the seniors, Nicole Murphy (18) took a bronze in patterns and a silver in sparring. Lucy Sanders and Stef Davies grabbed gold in the point-stop and continuous sparring categories respectively.
And it was the same for Carlos Anziani, 1st Dan, also taking double gold in veterans patterns and sparring.
Tania Zientara struck gold in the patterns and power test and Aga Rzetelna gold in sparrings.
Black belt Daniel Fielder won a bronze in the adult sparring, as did Liam Foster, while Lauren Evans claimed a gold in the ladies sparring.
There were solid performances in the boys' blue/red belt category, with 13-year-old Harry Newstead putting up a determined fight to take his first ever gold medal in sparring.
'If he's running through his sparring partners everyday we won't have any sparring partners left.'
Since arriving in the country since mid-October he has also been giving updates on his ventures as one of the sparring partners of the popular Pacquiao.
"It's tough when the punches are sinking in but the hard sparring gives you the confidence to keep firing when it matters most."
DAVID HAYE ends his exile from the ring tomorrow when he begins the first of 200 intense rounds of sparring at his new gym in central London.
Jennifer DePlanche, of Berlin, first place, girls 13-15 Advanced Kata (Double Crown Winner), first place girls 13-15 Advanced Sparring, second place 13-17 Under Black Belt Weapons Kata;
Notable winners included Stefanie Davies, 26, who retained British Champion title, winning gold in women's red belt sparring.
Callum Burkinshaw, aged six, silver in boys" under-25kgs Qingda sparring and silver in boys' under-11s traditional southern form.
Leading the way was Bernadetta Kaminska,, who struck gold in sparring, patterns and power technik.
Pacquiao traded blows with three sparring partners, who alternated on the 39-year-old superstar.