Word Origin & History
O.E. spillan "destroy, kill," variant of spildan, from P.Gmc. *spelthijanan (cf. O.H.G. spildan "to spill," O.S. spildian, O.N. spilla "to destroy," M.Du. spillen "to waste"), from PIE *spel- "to split, break off" (cf. M.Du. spalden, O.H.G. spaltan "to split;" for further cognates, see
). Sense of "let (liquid) fall or run out" developed c.1340 from use of the word in ref. to shedding blood (c.1125). Intrans. sense is from 1655. The noun is first recorded 1845, originally "a throw from a horse." Spill the beans first recorded 1919; to cry for spilt milk (usually with negative) is attested from 1738. Shakespeare used spilth "that which has spilled, act of spilling" (1607); modern spillage is attested from 1934. Spillover is from 1940; spillway is from 1889.