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From Middle English spoilen, spuylen, from Old French espoillier, espollier, espuler, from Latin spoliāre, present active infinitive of spoliō (pillage, ruin, spoil).



spoil (third-person singular simple present spoils, present participle spoiling, simple past and past participle spoiled or spoilt)

  1. (transitive, archaic) To strip (someone who has been killed or defeated) of their arms or armour. [from 14th c.]
  2. (transitive, archaic) To strip or deprive (someone) of their possessions; to rob, despoil. [from 14th c.]
    • 1526, William Tyndale, trans. Bible, Acts 9:21:
      All that herde hym wer amased and sayde: ys nott this he that spoylled them whych called on this name in Jerusalem?
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, VII:
      To do her dye (quoth Vna) were despight, / And shame t'auenge so weake an enimy; / But spoile her of her scarlot robe, and let her fly.
    • 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069:, I.2.4.vii:
      Roger, that rich Bishop of Salisbury, [] spoiled of his goods by King Stephen, [] through grief ran mad, spoke and did he knew not what.
  3. (transitive, intransitive, archaic) To plunder, pillage (a city, country etc.). [from 14th c.]
    • Edmund Spenser (c.1552–1599)
      Outlaws, which, lurking in woods, used to break forth to rob and spoil.
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To carry off (goods) by force; to steal. [14th-19th c.]
    • Bible, Mark iii. 27
      No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man.
  5. (transitive) To ruin; to damage (something) in some way making it unfit for use. [from 16th c.]
    • Jeremy Taylor (1613–1677)
      Spiritual pride spoils many graces.
    • 1909, Archibald Marshall, The Squire's Daughter, chapterII:
      "I don't want to spoil any comparison you are going to make," said Jim, "but I was at Winchester and New College." ¶ "That will do," said Mackenzie. "I was dragged up at the workhouse school till I was twelve. […]"
    • 2011, ‘What the Arab papers say’, The Economist, 5 Aug 2011:
      ‘This is a great day for us. Let us not spoil it by saying the wrong thing, by promoting a culture of revenge, or by failing to treat the former president with respect.’
  6. (transitive) To ruin the character of, by overindulgence; to coddle or pamper to excess. [from 17th c.]
  7. (intransitive) Of food, to become bad, sour or rancid; to decay. [from 17th c.]
    Make sure you put the milk back in the fridge, otherwise it will spoil.
  8. (transitive) To render (a ballot paper) invalid by deliberately defacing it. [from 19th c.]
    • 2003, David Nicoll, The Guardian, letter:
      Dr Jonathan Grant (Letters, April 22) feels the best way to show his disaffection with political parties over Iraq is to spoil his ballot paper.
  9. (transitive) To reveal the ending of (a story etc.); to ruin (a surprise) by exposing it ahead of time.




spoil (plural spoils)

  1. (Also in plural: spoils) Plunder taken from an enemy or victim.
  2. (uncountable) Material (such as rock or earth) removed in the course of an excavation, or in mining or dredging. Tailings.


Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

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