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[spil] /spɪl/
verb (used with object), spilled or spilt, spilling.
to cause or allow to run or fall from a container, especially accidentally or wastefully:
to spill a bag of marbles; to spill milk.
to shed (blood), as in killing or wounding.
to scatter:
to spill papers all over everything.
  1. to let the wind out of (a sail).
  2. to lose (wind) from a sail.
to cause to fall from a horse, vehicle, or the like:
His horse spilled him.
Informal. to divulge, disclose, or tell:
Don't spill the secret.
verb (used without object), spilled or spilt, spilling.
(of a liquid, loose particles, etc.) to run or escape from a container, especially by accident or in careless handling.
a spilling, as of liquid.
a quantity spilled.
the mark made by something spilled.
Also called spill light. superfluous or useless light rays, as from theatrical or photographic lighting units.
Theater. an area of a stage illuminated by spill light.
a throw or fall from a horse, vehicle, or the like:
She broke her arm in a spill.
spill the beans. bean (def 11).
Origin of spill1
before 950; 1920-25 for def 6; Middle English spillen to kill, destroy, shed (blood), Old English spillan to kill; cognate with Middle High German, Middle Dutch spillen; akin to spoil
Related forms
spillable, adjective, noun
nonspillable, adjective
unspilled, adjective


[spil] /spɪl/
a splinter.
a slender piece of wood or of twisted paper, for lighting candles, lamps, etc.
a peg made of metal.
a small pin for stopping a cask; spile.
Mining. forepole.
1250-1300; Middle English spille < ? Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for spill
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • For some who seem wise are most fools, for all their wisdom they spill in covetousness and care about the world.

  • It simply must be done to preserve the equilibrium and avoid a spill.

    Flying Machines W.J. Jackman and Thos. H. Russell
  • If the manger be over-filled they spill and waste it, and at the same time will not eat so much.

    Hodge and His Masters Richard Jefferies
  • spill it all out, I say, an' make the world smell as sweet as honey.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • She that gangs to the well wi' an ill will, either the pig breaks or the water will spill.

    The Proverbs of Scotland Alexander Hislop
British Dictionary definitions for spill


verb (mainly transitive) spills, spilling, spilt, spilled
when intr, usually foll by from, out of, etc. to fall or cause to fall from or as from a container, esp unintentionally
to disgorge (contents, occupants, etc) or (of contents, occupants, etc) to be disgorged: the car spilt its passengers onto the road, the crowd spilt out of the theatre
to shed (blood)
(informal) Also spill the beans. to disclose something confidential
(nautical) to let (wind) escape from a sail or (of the wind) to escape from a sail
(informal) a fall or tumble
short for spillway
a spilling of liquid, etc, or the amount spilt
(Austral) the declaring of several political jobs vacant when one higher up becomes so: the Prime Minister's resignation could mean a Cabinet spill
Derived Forms
spiller, noun
Word Origin
Old English spillan to destroy; related to spildan, Old High German spaltan to split; see spoil


a splinter of wood or strip of twisted paper with which pipes, fires, etc, are lit
a small peg or rod made of metal
Word Origin
C13: of Germanic origin; compare Old High German spilla, Middle Dutch spile stake
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for spill

Old English spillan "destroy, kill," variant of spildan, from Proto-Germanic *spelthijanan (cf. Old High German spildan "to spill," Old Saxon spildian, Old Norse spilla "to destroy," Middle Dutch spillen "to waste"), from PIE *spel- "to split, break off" (cf. Middle Dutch spalden, Old High German spaltan "to split;" for further cognates, see spoil). Related: Spilled; spilling.

Sense of "let (liquid) fall or run out" developed mid-14c. from use of the word in reference to shedding blood (early 12c.). Intransitive sense is from 1650s. Spill the beans recorded by 1910 in a sense of "spoil the situation;" to cry for spilt milk (usually with negative) is attested from 1738.


1845, originally "a throw from a horse," from spill (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for spill



A hypodermic needle (1934+ Narcotics)


  1. To strengthen a drink by adding alcohol or liquor: He spiked his coffee with brandy (1889+)
  2. To riseto a high level, esp rapidly: He also spikes into the upper registers/ push fluids when the patient has spiked a temp (1960s+)
  3. To reject; quash: The spiking of Schanberg's column at The Times drew hundreds of angry letters from readers/ confident the man's disbelieving New York editors will spike the story (1908+)
  4. To injure a player, most often a defending baseman, with the spikes on one's shoes (1885+ Baseball)
  5. To punch a volleyball powerfully and unreturnably down (1970s+ Volleyball)
  6. To slam the ball down, usually done by a player who has just scored a touchdown (1970s+ Football)
  7. To shoot: Figure whoever spiked Porter probably did us a favor (1990s+ Black)

[all senses fr spike, ''large nail,'' hence ''sharp point''; the sense ''to reject'' may be fr the earlier phrase spike a gun, ''render a cannon useless by driving a spike into the touchhole,'' or fr the notion of dealing with a paper, bill, manuscript, etc, by impaling it on a spindle or spindle file]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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spill in Technology
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Idioms and Phrases with spill


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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