General English

General Science

  • noun a quantity of liquid which has escaped from a container or confined area


  • noun the running out of a liquid from a container, especially when it is unintentional
  • verb to cause liquid to run out of a container, usually unintentionally


  • verb to fail to take a possible catch
    Citation ‘Richards was missed knee-high by Allott at mid-on off Cook, Gower having spilt Gomes at slip off Pringle’ (David Frith, WCM September 1984)

Real Estate

  • noun a small plug used to stop up a hole


  • verb to confess, own up or reveal a secret. A racier version of the colloquial ‘spill the beans’, the term is typically used in an underworld context, often involving informing on associates or otherwise betraying a confidence.


  • Stage lighting that spills or scatters from a spotlight intoareas that should not be lit. The problem can be corrected by adjustingthe barndoor shutters to tighten the beam.


  • noun the act of letting liquid fall by mistake

Origin & History of “spill”

Spill ‘let fall’ (OE) and spill ‘thin piece of wood’ are distinct words. The former originally meant ‘destroy, kill’; the modern sense ‘allow liquid to pour out or fall’, which did not emerge until the 14th century, arose as a rather grisly metaphor based on the notion of ‘shedding blood’. The ultimate origins of the word, which has relatives in Dutch spillen and Swedish spilla, are not known. Spill ‘thin piece of wood’ was probably borrowed from middle Low German or Middle Dutch spile ‘splinter, wooden pin, bar, etc’, which also gave English spile ‘bung’ (16th c.). this in turn went back to a prehistoric west Germanic *spinla (source also of English spindle). The familiar modern use of spill for a ‘small slip of wood, paper, etc used for carrying a flame’ did not emerge until the early 19th century.