de·​spoil | \ di-ˈspȯi(-ə)l How to pronounce despoil (audio) \
despoiled; despoiling; despoils

Definition of despoil

transitive verb

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

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Other Words from despoil

despoiler noun
despoilment \ di-​ˈspȯi(-​ə)l-​mənt How to pronounce despoilment (audio) \ 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

Here in a primitive wilderness despoiled by European invaders, where black men and women are rounded up, murdered and hanged from trees, a much farther-reaching tragedy comes into startling focus. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: ‘The Nightingale’ is a brilliant, horrifying tale of revenge," 15 Aug. 2019 Here in a primitive wilderness despoiled by European invaders, where black men and women are rounded up, murdered and hanged from trees, a much farther-reaching tragedy comes into startling focus. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Jennifer Kent’s ‘The Nightingale’ is a brilliant, horrifying tale of revenge," 1 Aug. 2019 The snake had entered Eden, to despoil all that was innocent. Dorothy Rabinowitz, WSJ, "‘The Loudest Voice’ Review: A Fox in the Hen House," 27 June 2019 Sitting Bull was a Sioux chief who saw his people slaughtered, despoiled, and dispossessed before he himself was killed. Marc-olivier Bherer, Harper's magazine, "No Reservations," 10 May 2019 Many Old World places—Venice, most painfully—have been largely despoiled by this mass tourism, no longer American alone, but for so long American led. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Europe and America Seventy-Five Years After D Day," 6 June 2019 The people whose class envy and resentment extends to a desire to despoil the rich at death are not Trump voters but the New York Times’s own upper-middle-class readership. WSJ, "Dogs Bite Men and Trumps Duck Taxes," 5 Oct. 2018 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

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

Last Updated

4 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for despoil

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

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More Definitions for despoil



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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More from Merriam-Webster on despoil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with despoil

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for despoil

Spanish Central: Translation of despoil

Nglish: Translation of despoil for Spanish Speakers

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