de·​spoil | \di-ˈspȯi(-ə)l \

Definition of despoil 

transitive verb

: to strip of belongings, possessions, or value : pillage

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Other Words from despoil

despoiler noun
despoilment \ -​mənt \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of despoil in a Sentence

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

Recent Examples on the Web

The movie — showing Friday and Saturday at midnight at the IFC Center in a good 35-millimeter print — opens in a dank, despoiled Britain ruled in the name of Homeland Security. J. Hoberman, New York Times, "Still Stoking Terror: The Hopeless World of ‘Children of Men’," 14 Mar. 2018 The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee had denied a crucial permit for the project, judging the project’s huge towers could despoil the state’s scenic rural countryside and affect its important tourism industry. Jon Chesto,, "Mass., utilities cut ties with Northern Pass power line project," 28 Mar. 2018 To anti-globalizers on the left, globalization meant a race to the bottom, corporations moving jobs to countries that exploited low-wage workers while despoiling the environment. Trudy Rubin,, "Trump sells America First at Davos Forum | Trudy Rubin," 26 Jan. 2018 In recent days Francis Scott Key joined a list of statuesque notables, from Joan of Arc to Wall Street’s Charging Bull, that have been toppled or otherwise despoiled. William Mcgurn, WSJ, "A Confederacy of Dunces," 18 Sep. 2017 His Washington is a travesty of wasted humanity and squandered good intentions, of powerful actors using and despoiling the less powerful and then casting them aside like garbage. Katy Waldman, Slate Magazine, "House of Cards Season 5 Is TV’s Slyest Take Yet on Our Political Moment," 1 June 2017 The culprits despoiled art and defaced American icons under cover of night. Stu Bykofsky,, "Political vandalism: After Rizzo mural, 2 others were hit," 30 Aug. 2017 The Northeast still blames coal plants in the Ohio River Valley for chronically dirty air in cities and acid rain that despoils remote forests and lake — problems that led Congress to approve a bipartisan overhaul of the Clean Air Act in 1990. Michael Hawthorne,, "Smog follows Chicagoans on vacation to Wisconsin, Michigan," 4 Aug. 2017 A fortnight after the attack of Hurricane Andrew, the southern arc of Florida lies luminous and shadowless in an extraordinary wash of daylight, despoiled, naked, hammered by the sun and open to every random rain. By Michael Browning, miamiherald, "A desolated landscape: the toll of Hurricane Andrew," 25 Aug. 2015

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'despoil.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of despoil

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for despoil

Middle English despoylen, from Anglo-French despoiller, from Latin despoliare, from de- + spoliare to strip, rob — more at spoil

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Statistics for despoil

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Time Traveler for despoil

The first known use of despoil was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of despoil

: to severely damage or ruin (a place)

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

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Comments on despoil

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by force of circumstances

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