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From Middle English despoylen, dispoylen, from Old French despoillier ( > French dépouiller), from Latin dēspoliō, dēspoliāre.


  • IPA(key): /dɪˈspɔɪl/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɔɪl


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

  1. (transitive) To plunder; to pillage; take spoil from.
    • 1849, Thomas Macaulay, History of England, Chapter 20:
      a law which restored to them an immense domain of which they had been despoiled
    • 1859, George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, Chapter 5:
      Ripton was familiar with the rod, a monster much despoiled of his terrors by intimacy.
    • 2003; Owaku, Hiroyuki; trans. Blaustein, Jeremy, et al., quoting Claudia Wolf, Silent Hill 3, Tokyo: Konami, PlayStation 2; PC:
      They have come to witness the Beginning. The rebirth of Paradise, despoiled by mankind.
    • 2010, The Economist, 17 July, 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, “xij”, in Le Morte Darthur, book VII:
      So syr Persants doughter dyd as her fader bad her / and soo she wente vnto syr Beaumayns bed / & pryuely she dispoylled her / & leid her doune by hym / & thenne he awoke & sawe her & asked her what she was
      (please add an English translation of this quote)

Related terms[edit]



despoil (plural despoils)

  1. (obsolete) Plunder; spoliation.