Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To cause or allow (a substance) to run or fall out of a container.
  • transitive v. To scatter (objects) from containment: spilled the armload of books on the desk.
  • transitive v. To shed (blood).
  • transitive v. Nautical To relieve the pressure of wind on (a sail).
  • transitive v. Nautical To cause or allow (wind) to be lost from a sail.
  • transitive v. To cause to fall: The rider was spilled by his horse.
  • transitive v. Informal To disclose (something previously unknown); divulge: The witness spilled all the details about the suspect.
  • intransitive v. To run or fall out of a container or containment.
  • intransitive v. To come to the ground suddenly and involuntarily.
  • intransitive v. To pour out or spread beyond limits: Fans spilled onto the playing field.
  • n. The act of spilling.
  • n. An amount spilled.
  • n. A fall, as from a horse.
  • n. A spillway.
  • n. A piece of wood or rolled paper used to light a fire.
  • n. A small peg or rod, especially one used as a plug; a spile.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To drop something so that it spreads out or makes a mess; to pour.
  • v. To spread out or fall out, as above.
  • v. To drop something that was intended to be caught.
  • v. To be destroyed, ruined, or wasted; to come to ruin; to perish; to waste.
  • v. To be shed; to run over; to fall out, and be lost or wasted.
  • n. A mess of something that has been dropped.
  • n. A fall or stumble.
  • n. A small stick or piece of paper used to light a candle, cigarette etc by the transfer of a flame from a fire.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A bit of wood split off; a splinter.
  • n. A slender piece of anything.
  • n. A peg or pin for plugging a hole, as in a cask; a spile.
  • n. A metallic rod or pin.
  • n. A small roll of paper, or slip of wood, used as a lamplighter, etc.
  • n. One of the thick laths or poles driven horizontally ahead of the main timbering in advancing a level in loose ground.
  • n. A little sum of money.
  • intransitive v. To be destroyed, ruined, or wasted; to come to ruin; to perish; to waste.
  • intransitive v. To be shed; to run over; to fall out, and be lost or wasted.
  • transitive v. To cover or decorate with slender pieces of wood, metal, ivory, etc.; to inlay.
  • transitive v. To destroy; to kill; to put an end to.
  • transitive v. To mar; to injure; to deface; hence, to destroy by misuse; to waste.
  • transitive v. To suffer to fall or run out of a vessel; to lose, or suffer to be scattered; -- applied to fluids and to substances whose particles are small and loose.
  • transitive v. To cause to flow out and be lost or wasted; to shed, or suffer to be shed, as in battle or in manslaughter.
  • transitive v. To relieve a sail from the pressure of the wind, so that it can be more easily reefed or furled, or to lessen the strain.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To destroy; kill; slay.
  • To injure; mar; spoil; ruin.
  • To waste; squander; spend.
  • To suffer or cause to flow out or become lost; shed: used especially of blood, as in wilful killing.
  • To suffer to fall or run out accidentally and wastefully, and not as by pouring: said of fluids or of substances in fine grains or powder, such as flour or sand: as, to spill wine; to spill salt.
  • To let out; let leak out; divulge: said of matters concealed.
  • Nautical, to discharge the wind from, as from the belly of a sail, in order to furl or reef it.
  • To throw, as from the saddle or a vehicle; overthrow.
  • Synonyms Splash, etc. See slop.
  • To kill; slay; destroy; spread ruin.
  • To come to ruin or destruction; perish; die.
  • To be wasteful or prodigal.
  • To run out and become shed or wasted.
  • To inlay, diversify, or piece out with spills, splinters, or chips; cover with small patches resembling spills. In the quotation it denotes inlaying with small pieces of ivory.
  • To brace or stay a drift or adit with piles.
  • n. A throw or fall, as from a saddle or a vehicle.
  • n. A downpour; a flood.
  • n. A splinter; a chip.
  • n. A little bar or pin; a peg.
  • n. A slip or strip of wood or paper meant for use as a lamplighter.
  • n. A small peg or pin for stopping a cask; a spile: as, a vent-hole stopped with a spill.
  • n. The spindle of a spinning-wheel.
  • n. A trifling sum of money; a small fee.
  • n. plural The thin layers or filaments of cinder in wrought-iron bars of poor quality due to imperfect working of the metal in squeezer, hammer, or roll treatment.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. pour out in drops or small quantities or as if in drops or small quantities
  • n. a sudden drop from an upright position
  • v. cause or allow (a solid substance) to flow or run out or over
  • v. cause or allow (a liquid substance) to run or flow from a container
  • n. liquid that is spilled
  • v. reveal information
  • n. a channel that carries excess water over or around a dam or other obstruction
  • v. reduce the pressure of wind on (a sail)
  • v. flow, run or fall out and become lost
  • n. the act of allowing a fluid to escape

Etymologies

Middle English spillen, to shed blood, to spill, from Old English spillan, to kill.
Middle English spille.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English spillan. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Some of Obama's top officials said Sunday that the spill is a potential catastrophe and defended the administration's response so far against complaints it has reacted too slowly.

    Obama heads to view Gulf Coast oil spill

  • Hurricanes are an act of nature, but this spill is an act of men.

    Is oil spill 'Obama's Katrina'?

  • "I think the spill is a game changer," said William Reilly, co-chairman of the president's oil spill commission tasked with examining policy for offshore drilling in light of what went wrong with the Macondo well.

    Will the oil spill make a drop of difference regarding our attitudes?

  • As Mother Jones environmental reporter Kate Sheppard recently noted: “The base fine for a spill is $1,100 a barrel, but it can go as high as $4,300 a barrel if a federal court determines that the spill was the result of gross negligence by the responsible party.”

    Crime Against Nature «

  • A "spill" is when you have something, and then lose it - like water from a bucket, or oil from the Exxon Valdez.

    Oil spill could sap appetite for Obama's offshore drilling plans

  • The incoming leader, who takes over Friday as CEO of a company struggling with the aftermath of a record oil spill, is ousting entrenched leaders, restructuring the organization and reassessing how employees earn their pay.

    Rating BP's management shakeup

  • The oil spill is a situation where you don't see what worries you the most.

    Reflections from the Gulf of Mexico

  • Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.

    Oh, good, this again « Motivated Grammar

  • BP incoming CEO Robert Dudley created a division to improve safety and said an executive at the center of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is leaving the company.

    What's News

  • Shaun Best/Reuters MONITORING: A cleanup worker monitored the site of a fuel spill from a Suncor-owned refinery into the St. Lawrence River near Montreal Wednesday.

    Photos of the Day: Sept. 29

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