from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To impair or destroy the value or quality of; ruin.
  • intransitive verb To harm the character of (a child) by overindulgence or leniency. synonym: pamper.
  • intransitive verb To plunder; despoil.
  • intransitive verb To take by force.
  • intransitive verb To become unfit for use or consumption, as from decay. Used especially of perishables, such as food. synonym: decay.
  • noun Goods or property seized from a victim after a conflict, especially after a military victory.
  • noun Incidental benefits reaped by a winner, especially political patronage enjoyed by a successful party or candidate.
  • noun An object of plunder; prey.
  • noun Refuse material removed from an excavation.
  • noun Archaic The act of plundering; spoliation.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To strip with violence; rob; pillage; plunder; despoil: with of before the thing taken.
  • To seize or take by force; carry off as booty.
  • To destroy; ruin; injure; mar; impair; render useless, or less valuable, potent, or the like; seriously impair the quality, value, soundness, beauty, usefulness, pleasantness, etc., of: as, to spoil a thing in the making; to spoil one's chances of promotion; to spoil the fun.
  • To injure, vitiate, or impair in any way; especially, as applied to persons, to vitiate or impair in character or disposition; render less filial, obedient, affectionate, mannerly, modest, contented, or the like: as, to spare the rod and spoil the child; to spoil one with flattery.
  • To cut up; carve: as, to spoil a hen.
  • To engage in plunder and robbery; pillage; rob.
  • To decay; become tainted or unsavory; lose freshness: as, fruit and fish soon spoil in warm weather.
  • noun Arms and armor stripped from a defeated enemy; the plunder taken from an enemy in war; booty; loot; hence, that which is seized or falls to one after any struggle; specifically, in recent use, the patronage and emoluments of office, considered as a reward for zeal or service rendered in a struggle of parties: frequently in the plural: as, the spoils of capture; to the victor belong the spoils; the spoils of office; party spoils.
  • noun The act of plundering, pillaging, or despoiling; the act of spoliation; pillage; robbery.
  • noun Injury; damage; waste; havoc; destruction.
  • noun An object of pillage or spoliation; a thing to be preyed upon; a prey.
  • noun Waste material, as that obtained in mining, quarrying, excavating canals, making railway cuttings, etc. Compare spoil-bank.
  • noun The slough, or cast skin, of a serpent or other animal.
  • noun In spoil-five, a drawn game.
  • noun Synonyms Plunder, Booty, etc. See pillage, n.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • intransitive verb To practice plunder or robbery.
  • intransitive verb To lose the valuable qualities; to be corrupted; to decay.
  • transitive verb To plunder; to strip by violence; to pillage; to rob; -- with of before the name of the thing taken.
  • transitive verb To seize by violence; to take by force; to plunder.
  • transitive verb To cause to decay and perish; to corrupt; to vitiate; to mar.
  • transitive verb To render useless by injury; to injure fatally; to ruin; to destroy
  • noun That which is taken from another by violence; especially, the plunder taken from an enemy; pillage; booty.
  • noun Public offices and their emoluments regarded as the peculiar property of a successful party or faction, to be bestowed for its own advantage; -- commonly in the plural.
  • noun That which is gained by strength or effort.
  • noun The act or practice of plundering; robbery; waste.
  • noun Archaic Corruption; cause of corruption.
  • noun obsolete The slough, or cast skin, of a serpent or other animal.
  • noun a bank formed by the earth taken from an excavation, as of a canal.
  • noun the theory or practice of regarding public offices and their emoluments as so much plunder to be distributed among their active partisans by those who are chosen to responsible offices of administration.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To reveal the ending of (a story etc.); to ruin (a surprise) by exposing it ahead of time.
  • noun Plunder taken from an enemy or victim.
  • noun uncountable Material (such as rock or earth) removed in the course of an excavation, or in mining or dredging. Tailings.

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

  • verb hinder or prevent (the efforts, plans, or desires) of
  • verb treat with excessive indulgence
  • verb make a mess of, destroy or ruin
  • verb alter from the original
  • verb destroy and strip of its possession


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

[Middle English spoilen, to plunder, from Old French espoillier, from Latin spoliāre, from spolium, booty.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old French espoillier, from Latin spoliāre, present active infinitive of spoliō ("pillage, ruin, spoil").


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  • The term spoil (ghanima) is applied specifically to property acquired by force from non-Muslims.

    Jihad Watch 2009

  • What a ridiculous question would this be to him, who knows that in what we call spoil, he pursues the rational purposes of his own art; that to the excellence of the metal, he may also add the curiousness of the figure?

    Sermons Preached Upon Several Occasions. Vol. VI. 1634-1716 1823

  • At issue was the massive amount of rock left over from the mountaintop-removal process, known as spoil, that is dumped into adjoining valleys, clogging up streams.

    Appeals Court Overturns Mountaintop Mine Rules 2009

  • Persians to the rout; wherefore all the spoil is thine.

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night 2006

  • 'Don't think any one will see it there,' he said, as he cut the candle down a trifle and lit it cautiously with a sputtering sulphur match, part of the spoil from the Turkish sentry.

    On Land and Sea at the Dardanelles

  • The word spoil commonly means now, to corrupt, injure, or destroy.

    Barnes New Testament Notes 1949

  • The conditions of the covenant have been violated by the reservation of spoil from the doomed city; wickedness, emphatically called folly, has been committed in Israel (Ps 14: 1), and dissimulation, with other aggravations of the crime, continues to be practised.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible 1871

  • I am well content with my estates, and need no foot of English land, no share in English spoil I must fight for my liege lord as long as fighting goes on, but that over I hope to return here and live in peace.

    Wulf the Saxon A Story of the Norman Conquest 1867

  • You need to learn that your girlfriend is an enabling idiot who has no idea what the word spoil actually means. | Top Stories 2010

  • Where the 1979 regulations required haulage and placement of the rock and soil in compacted, constructed, engineered fills, OSM weakened the rules to allow end-dumping and wing-dumping from the mine bench of excessive amounts of mine "spoil" -- the soil and rock removed from above coal seams, into headwater streams.

    unknown title 2009


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  • Contronymic in the sense: prize vs. render useless.

    January 27, 2007

  • Original meaning was "to strip or plunder," hence, "goods siezed or plundered in war."

    July 17, 2007

  • aka booty

    July 17, 2007

  • Yes, and I must quote OED at booty--it sums up what we have been talking about.

    July 17, 2007

  • Shake that spoil.

    May 19, 2008