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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.
    • 1609, Ammianus Marcellinus, “[The XXIII. Booke.] Chapter II. Being Departed out of Antioch, He was Troubled and Haunted with Strange Signes and Dreames: But afterwards Comforted againe by Sundrie Presages, and the Arrivall of a Most Puissant Armadoe, He Proceedeth in His Intended Voyage.”, in Philemon Holland, transl., The Roman Historie, [], London: [] Adam Jslip, →OCLC, pages 220–221:
      [T]here vvas brought unto him an horſe named Babylonius, vvhich happening to be ſore vexed vvith a ſuddaine gripe or vvring in his belly, fell dovvne, and vvhiles hee vvas not able to endure the paine, vvallovveth along, and happeneth to beſprent his capariſon and ornaments richly garniſhed vvith gold and precious ſtones. At vvhich ſtrange ſight he tooke great joy, and cryed out, vvith the applauſe of thoſe next about him, That Babylon vvas fallen, and lay along on the ground diſpoyled of all her ornaments.
    • 1849–1861, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter 20, in The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, volumes (please specify |volume=I to V), London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, →OCLC:
      a law which restored to them an immense domain of which they had been despoiled
    • 1859, George Meredith, chapter V, in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel. A History of Father and Son. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), London: Chapman and Hall, →OCLC:
      Ripton was familiar with the rod, a monster much despoiled of his terrors by intimacy.
    • 2003, Owaku, Hiroyuki and 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 July 17, The Economist, page 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.
  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 quotation)

Related terms[edit]



despoil (plural despoils)

  1. (obsolete) Plunder; spoliation.