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verb de·spoil \di-ˈspi(-ə)l\

: to severely damage or ruin (a place)

: to forcefully take what is valuable from (a place)

Full Definition of DESPOIL

transitive verb
:  to strip of belongings, possessions, or value :  pillage
de·spoil·er noun
de·spoil·ment \-mənt\ noun

Examples of DESPOIL

  1. The landscape has been despoiled by industrial development.
  2. <the burglars despoiled the art museum in search of treasures they thought they could sell to a fence>

Origin of DESPOIL

Middle English despoylen, from Anglo-French despoiller, from Latin despoliare, from de- + spoliare to strip, rob — more at spoil
First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of DESPOIL

ravage, devastate, waste, sack, pillage, despoil mean to lay waste by plundering or destroying. ravage implies violent often cumulative depredation and destruction <a hurricane ravaged the coast>. devastate implies the complete ruin and desolation of a wide area <an earthquake devastated the city>. waste may imply producing the same result by a slow process rather than sudden and violent action <years of drought had wasted the area>. sack implies carrying off all valuable possessions from a place <barbarians sacked ancient Rome>. pillage implies ruthless plundering at will but without the completeness suggested by sack <settlements pillaged by Vikings>. despoil applies to looting or robbing without suggesting accompanying destruction <the Nazis despoiled the art museums>.


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