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From Old French despoillier ( > French dépouiller), from Latin dēspoliō.



despoil (third-person singular simple present despoils, present participle despoiling, simple past and past participle despoiled)

  1. (transitive) To deprive for spoil; to take spoil from; to plunder; to rob; to pillage.
    • Macaulay
      a law which restored to them an immense domain of which they had been despoiled
    • 2010, The Economist, 17 Jul 2010, p. 53:
      To dreamers in the West, Tibet is a Shangri-La despoiled by Chinese ruthlessness and rapacity.
  2. (transitive) To violently strip (someone), with indirect object of their possessions etc.; to rob.
    • 1614, Sir Walter Raleigh, History of the World
      The Earl of March, following the plain path which his father had trodden out, despoiled Henry the father, and Edward the son, both of their lives and kingdom.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 9, 410-11
      To intercept thy way, or send thee back / Despoiled of innocence, of faith, of bliss.
    • 1849, Thomas Macaulay, History of England, Chapter 20
      A law which restored to them an immense domain of which they had been despoiled.
  3. (obsolete, transitive or reflexive) To strip (someone) of their clothes; to undress.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, Book VI:
      So Sir Persauntis doughter dud as her fadir bade hir, and so she yode unto Sir Bewmaynes bed and pryvyly she dispoyled hir and leyde hir downe by hym.


Related terms[edit]


despoil (plural despoils)

  1. (obsolete) Plunder; spoliation.