spoil

Definitions

General English

  • verb to change something which was good so that it is no longer good
  • verb to be too kind to someone, especially a child, so that he or she sometimes becomes badly behaved

General Science

  • noun waste left after minerals have been dug out of the ground
  • verb to destroy the quality or usefulness of something

Commerce

  • verb to ruin, to make something bad

Construction

  • Dirt or rock excavated and removed from its original location but not used for embankment or fill.

Travel

  • verb to go bad

Origin & History of “spoil”

Latin spolium originally denoted ‘skin stripped from a killed animal’ (it went back ultimately to the Indo-European base *spel- ‘split, burst’, which also produced German spalten ‘split’, and probably English spill and split). It broadened out metaphorically via ‘weapons stripped from a fallen enemy’ to ‘booty’ in general, which lies behind English spoils. The word itself was borrowed from Old French espoille, a derivative of the verb espoillier, which in turn went back to Latin spoliāre ‘despoil’ (source of English spoliation (14th c.)), a derivative of spolium. The verb spoil came either from Old French espoillier, or is short for despoil (13th c.), which went back via Old French despoillier to Latin dēspoliāre. It used to mean ‘strip of possessions’, as despoil still does, but in the 16th century it moved across to take over the semantic territory of the similar-sounding spill (which once meant ‘destroy, ruin’).
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