The word has two possible etymologies:
- from the Scots word for game, competition, or (sporting) match  from the German Spiel.
- from שפּיל (shpil), a Yiddish word used in prison culture (cognate to German Spiel), an evolutionary stage between rap and hip hop and the earlier chain gang songs influenced by gospel and Afro-Caribbean music.
spiel (plural spiels)
- A lengthy and extravagant speech or argument usually intended to persuade.
- A fast excuse or sales pitch.
- To talk at length.
In the United States spiel is used to describe the protean rap music vocalizations in the 1960s, for example as used by The Last Poets. It is also used by Lenny Bruce to describe his beat era comedy routines.
In Scotland it is used in Scots or Scottish English linguistic contexts, for example in the expression "wheesht yer spiel", meaning "shut up". It is also used to refer to a curling match held between members of the same club or community, as opposed to a bonspiel which refers to a curling match between teams, clubs or communities.