1 [pil]
a small globular or rounded mass of medicinal substance, usually covered with a hard coating, that is to be swallowed whole.
something unpleasant that has to be accepted or endured: Ingratitude is a bitter pill.
Slang. a tiresomely disagreeable person.
Sports Slang. a ball, especially a baseball or golf ball.
the pill, birth-control pill.
pills, British Slang. billiards.
verb (used with object)
to dose with pills.
to form or make into pills.
Slang. to blackball.
verb (used without object)
to form into small, pill-like balls, as the fuzz on a wool sweater. Compare depill.
Take a chill pill!, Disparaging Slang. chill pill ( def 2 ).

1375–1425; late Middle English pille < Middle Low German, Middle Dutch pilleLatin pilula, diminutive of pila ball; see -ule

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2 [pil]
verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
British Dialect. to peel.
Obsolete. to become or cause to become bald.

before 1100; Middle English pilen, Old English pilian to skin, peel < Latin pilāre to strip (said of hair). See pile3


3 [pil]
verb (used with object) Archaic.
to rob, plunder, or pillage.

1150–1200; Middle English; probably conflation of pill2 with Middle French piller (see pillage)

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
pill1 (pɪl)
1.  a small spherical or ovoid mass of a medicinal substance, intended to be swallowed whole
2.  informal (sometimes capital) the pill an oral contraceptive
3.  something unpleasant that must be endured (esp in the phrase bitter pill to swallow)
4.  slang a ball or disc
5.  a small ball of matted fibres that forms on the surface of a fabric through rubbing
6.  slang an unpleasant or boring person
7.  (tr) to give pills to
8.  (tr) to make pills of
9.  (intr)
 a.  to form into small balls
 b.  (of a fabric) to form small balls of fibre on its surface through rubbing
10.  slang (tr) to blackball
[C15: from Middle Flemish pille, from Latin pilula a little ball, from pila ball]

pill2 (pɪl)
1.  archaic, dialect or to peel or skin (something)
2.  archaic to pillage or plunder (a place)
3.  obsolete to make or become bald
[Old English pilian, from Latin pilāre to strip]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1484, from M.Du. or M.L.G. pille, from L. pilula "pill," lit. "little ball," dim. of pila "ball." Slang meaning "boring person" is recorded from 1871. The pill "contraceptive pill" is from 1957. Pill-box "box for holding pills" is first attested 1730; as a small round concrete machine gun nest, it came
into use in WWI. As a type of hat, attested from 1958.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

pill (pĭl)

  1. A small pellet or tablet of medicine, often coated, taken by swallowing whole or by chewing.

  2. An oral contraceptive.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see bitter pill to swallow; sugar the pill.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
If it's prescription pill bottles, it's nursing homes.
Video art on the other hand can be an intellectually harder pill to swallow.
Science has not fully parsed its workings, much less found a pill to ward it
Consider taking a pill to help with your bizarre expectations.
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