In computer graphics, a sprite (also known by other names; see Synonyms below) is a two-dimensional image or animation that is integrated into a larger scene. Initially including just graphical objects handled separately from the memory bitmap of a video display, this now includes various manners of graphical overlays.
Originally, sprites were a method of integrating unrelated bitmaps so that they appeared to be part of the normal bitmap on a screen, such as creating an animated character that can be moved on a screen without altering the data defining the overall screen. Such sprites can be created by either electronic circuitry or software. In circuitry, a hardware sprite is a hardware construct that employs custom DMA channels to integrate visual elements with the main screen in that it super-imposes two discrete video sources. Software can simulate this through specialized rendering methods.
As three-dimensional graphics became more prevalent, sprites came to include flat images seamlessly integrated into complicated three-dimensional scenes.