Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun \ˈspȯi(-ə)l\

Simple Definition of spoil

  • : something stolen or taken by thieves, soldiers, etc.

  • : something valuable or desirable that someone gets by working or trying hard

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of spoil

  1. 1a :  plunder taken from an enemy in war or from a victim in robbery :  lootb :  public offices made the property of a successful party —usually used in pluralc :  something valuable or desirable gained through special effort or opportunism or in return for a favor —usually used in plural

  2. 2a :  spoliation, plunderingb :  the act of damaging :  harm, impairment

  3. 3 :  an object of plundering :  prey

  4. 4 :  earth and rock excavated or dredged

  5. 5 :  an object damaged or flawed in the making

Examples of spoil in a sentence

  1. <the bandits escaped with their lives but not with the spoils>

Origin of spoil

Middle English spoile, from Anglo-French espuille, from espuiller

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of spoil

spoil, plunder, booty, prize, loot mean something taken from another by force or craft. spoil, more commonly spoils, applies to what belongs by right or custom to the victor in war or political contest <the spoils of political victory>. plunder applies to what is taken not only in war but in robbery, banditry, grafting, or swindling <a bootlegger's plunder>. booty implies plunder to be shared among confederates <thieves dividing up their booty>. prize applies to spoils captured on the high seas or territorial waters of the enemy <the wartime right of seizing prizes at sea>. loot applies especially to what is taken from victims of a catastrophe <picked through the ruins for loot>.




Simple Definition of spoil

  • : to have a bad effect on (something) : to damage or ruin (something)

  • : to decay or lose freshness especially because of being kept too long

  • : to give (someone, such as a child) everything that he or she wants : to have a bad effect on (someone) by allowing too many things or by not correcting bad behavior

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of spoil

spoiled play \ˈspȯi(-ə)ld, ˈspȯi(-ə)lt\ also spoilt play \ˈspȯi(-ə)lt\ spoiling

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a archaic :  despoil, stripb :  pillage, rob

  3. 2 archaic :  to seize by force

  4. 3a :  to damage seriously :  ruinb :  to impair the quality or effect of <a quarrel spoiled the celebration>

  5. 4a :  to impair the disposition or character of by overindulgence or excessive praiseb :  to pamper excessively :  coddle

  6. intransitive verb
  7. 1 :  to practice plunder and robbery

  8. 2 :  to lose valuable or useful qualities usually as a result of decay <the fruit spoiled>

  9. 3 :  to have an eager desire <spoiling for a fight>

spoilable play \ˈspȯi-lə-bəl\ adjective

Examples of spoil in a sentence

  1. The fight spoiled the party.

  2. The camping trip was spoiled by bad weather.

  3. Don't let one mistake spoil your day.

  4. Don't spoil your appetite by snacking too much.

  5. Exposure to air will spoil the wine.

  6. I spoiled the sauce by adding too much garlic.

  7. The milk was beginning to spoil.

  8. The hotel spoils their guests with fine dining and excellent service.

  9. She always spoils me on my birthday.

  10. You should spoil yourself with a day at the spa.

Origin of spoil

Middle English, from Anglo-French espuiller, espoiller, from Latin spoliare to strip of natural covering, despoil, from spolium skin, hide — more at spill

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of spoil

decay, decompose, rot, putrefy, spoil mean to undergo destructive dissolution. decay implies a slow change from a state of soundness or perfection <a decaying mansion>. decompose stresses a breaking down by chemical change and when applied to organic matter a corruption <the strong odor of decomposing vegetation>. rot is a close synonym of decompose and often connotes foulness <fruit was left to rot in warehouses>. putrefy implies the rotting of animal matter and offensiveness to sight and smell <corpses putrefying on the battlefield>. spoil applies chiefly to the decomposition of foods <keep the ham from spoiling>.

indulge, pamper, humor, spoil, baby, mollycoddle mean to show undue favor to a person's desires and feelings. indulge implies excessive compliance and weakness in gratifying another's or one's own desires <indulged myself with food at the slightest excuse>. pamper implies inordinate gratification of desire for luxury and comfort with consequent enervating effect <pampered by the amenities of modern living>. humor stresses a yielding to a person's moods or whims <humored him by letting him tell the story>. spoil stresses the injurious effects on character by indulging or pampering <foolish parents spoil their children>. baby suggests excessive care, attention, or solicitude <babying students by grading too easily>. mollycoddle suggests an excessive degree of care and attention to another's health or welfare <refused to mollycoddle her malingering son>.

Rhymes with spoil

SPOIL Defined for Kids



verb \ˈspȯil\

Definition of spoil for Students

spoiled \ˈspȯild\ or spoilt \ˈspȯilt\spoiling

  1. 1 :  to damage the character of by allowing too many things or not correcting bad behavior <Grandparents sometimes spoil a child.>

  2. 2 :  to damage badly :  ruin <Frost spoiled the crop.>

  3. 3 :  to damage the quality or effect of <A quarrel spoiled the celebration.>

  4. 4 :  to decay or lose freshness, value, or usefulness by being kept too long <The milk spoiled.>




Definition of spoil for Students

  1. :  stolen goods :  plunder

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up spoil? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the range of perception or understanding

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

perplex disapprove soothe reduce
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.