Main definitions of spill in English

: spill1spill2

spill1

verb

[WITH OBJECT]
  • 1Cause or allow (liquid) to flow over the edge of its container, especially unintentionally.

    ‘you'll spill that tea if you're not careful’
    figurative ‘azaleas spilled cascades of flowers over the pathways’
    • ‘Shara's hand shook as she picked up a cup of coffee, spilling the now-cold liquid on the article she had just concluded.’
    • ‘A bottle of chemical fertilizer had been knocked askew, spilling the liquid in a pool on the concrete floor.’
    • ‘I place the mugs on a small wooden tray and carry it out to the divan, trying not to spill the hot liquid.’
    • ‘I move to the far side of the porch and almost fall trying pull myself up onto the railing, spilling my drink.’
    • ‘John spills water on a photo slide he is examining, the red color appearing as spilled blood.’
    • ‘One weekend she had come in with his water and had spilled his coffee.’
    • ‘He yanked the glass to his face, spilling the water over the front of him.’
    • ‘She swallowed the pills down, but nearly spilled the water when she set it down on the table.’
    • ‘First she spilt the oil, then she broke a container, and finally, she spurted food coloring all over our bags.’
    • ‘Hey, remember, when we went into Granny's study and accidentally spilt her ink all over the carpet?’
    • ‘I spilled the water on the chair and glared furiously at Will in response.’
    • ‘John nearly spilled his water trying to set the glass down to take a better look at the picture.’
    • ‘I took a drink but she wasn't as careful as she thought and spilled some water down my chest.’
    • ‘Casey slid the beer in front of him, careful not to spill a drop.’
    • ‘And he did so without spilling a single drop of champagne on his silver tray.’
    • ‘She nearly spilled the water in his lap as she thrust the two objects at him.’
    • ‘He picks it up and passes it to her being careful not to spill a drop.’
    • ‘It seemed to work, because his head jerked upward and he spilt some water on the ground.’
    • ‘I fell asleep soon enough and of course spilled my soda all over the carpet.’
    • ‘He doesn't mind all of the ink being spilt on him but don't try and get him to read the stuff.’
    knock over, tip over, upset, overturn
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object (of liquid) flow over the edge of its container.
      ‘some of the wine spilled on to the floor’
      figurative ‘light spilled into the room from the landing’
      • ‘She held his gaze until the tears spilled over onto her cheeks.’
      • ‘Someone dropped his glass of wine and the red liquid spilt across the marble floor.’
      • ‘Sophie sustained first, second and third degree burns when a bowl of boiling water spilled over her torso and legs.’
      • ‘The test tube broke, and a flush of liquid spilled over onto Marsha.’
      • ‘Her hand shook the glass and water spilled onto the tablecloth.’
      • ‘Then she stepped forward, and hugged him while the tears spilled over.’
      • ‘The tears spilled over and started to run down her cheeks.’
      • ‘The putrid liquid spilled over the ground beneath the table, leaving the stench to rise up through the cracks.’
      • ‘The tears spilled over my eyelids and flowed down my face.’
      • ‘A little bit of water had spilled onto the tile floor around the tub.’
      • ‘Hot liquid spilled over the top of the baking pan and on her hand.’
      • ‘Tears spilled over those beautiful cheeks as she started sniffling.’
      • ‘As he did so light spilled over her lovely face suddenly and he was dumbstruck.’
      • ‘Crocodile tears spilled over onto Millicent's cheeks and she stood with downcast eyes.’
      • ‘Antonio pressed further and the red liquid spilled onto her shirt.’
      • ‘The blood droplets spilled onto the floor, marking my drunken journey.’
      • ‘His arms lay limp across his bed as his contained tears spilled over the pillow.’
      • ‘The door to the warehouse was flung open and light spilled over Stephanie's face.’
      • ‘A choked sob caught in her throat, and she brought a hand up to her mouth as her eyes filled with tears that spilled over onto her reddened cheeks.’
      • ‘As the freezing water spilled over her she could feel the goosebumps rise on her skin.’
      overflow, flow, pour, run, slop, slosh, splash, splatter
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (with reference to the contents of something) empty out or be emptied out on to a surface.
      with object ‘the bag fell to the floor, spilling out its contents’
      no object ‘passengers' baggage had spilled out of the hold’
      • ‘Costumes spilled out of crates and both men and women wore masks of make-up.’
      • ‘The crib was on its side and the contents were almost all spilled out by the force.’
      • ‘Her bag of groceries slipped from her hands, falling to the street below, its contents spilling out at her feet.’
      • ‘Walking through the tiny hallway, the top box toppled over, the entire contents spilling out.’
      • ‘As I pulled the wrecked chest away from the bed it fell apart and the contents spilled out on the floor.’
      • ‘The container was upside down, so when the sides opened, the contents spilled out onto the carpet at the engineer's feet.’
      • ‘She wasn't in the bathroom and her purse had been left behind, sitting on the bedside dresser with its contents spilling out.’
      • ‘The envelope was protruding from his pocket, the contents spilling out.’
      • ‘The contents spilled out on the chair, but Keiko couldn't care less.’
      • ‘Luckily for him, the soft food hadn't spilled out of the bowls.’
      • ‘I didn't answer because then the meeting ended and my backpack broke and the contents spilled out onto the grass and I had to pick up all the papers.’
      • ‘Her books spilled out of her arms and onto the warm ground.’
      • ‘Boxes are scattered all over the floor, contents spilling out.’
      • ‘Looking down, he saw his bookbag lying on its side, the top flap open and its contents spilled out.’
      • ‘It was a white cardboard packing box that wasn't taped together at the top, and when I turned it over, the contents spilled out.’
      • ‘The piece then moved and slid over, several empty cans spilled out.’
      • ‘The contents of her backpack spilled out, many items breaking with a resounding crash as a result.’
      • ‘He dropped his box of comics at his feet and the contents spilled out onto the concrete tarmac.’
      • ‘The blue sack landed forcefully, spilling out most of its contents.’
      • ‘Boxes were everywhere, some open with their contents spilling out, while others had been shoved to the side, to be sorted through later.’
    3. 1.3no object, with adverbial of direction (of a number of people) move out of somewhere quickly.
      ‘students began to spill out of the building’
      • ‘Then we spilled out into the corridor, babbling incoherently and the experience that none of us would ever forget came to an end.’
      • ‘A serpentine queue for check-in had spilled out in the street from the vast hall at five in the morning.’
      • ‘As I shuffled at a near run down the hall other students began to spill down that corridor, all trying to dash into their classrooms so as to avoid the same fate that I had a sinking feeling I would be receiving.’
      • ‘And as the crowds spilled out of Mount Juliet last night, the tills were still ringing long and loud.’
      • ‘The crowd spilled out over the Park, and the police were drowned out by the screaming.’
      • ‘Students spilled out of the classroom, some of them looking at me oddly.’
      • ‘The funeral was held at the VA Center chapel and the standing-room-only crowd spilled out into the street.’
      • ‘In a frenzied rush of limbs, they spilled out of the car.’
      • ‘One sunny afternoon as I sat nursing a chilled glass of Chianti on the square, a wedding party spilled out from an old church, a blur of confetti and colour.’
      • ‘The bell must have rung because students began spilling out from the school.’
      • ‘Patrons spilled out into the street and smiles were everywhere.’
      • ‘I pulled away from him eventually as the bell rang again, and people began spilling outside for recess.’
      • ‘As everyone spilled out of the studio and into the corridor, Adele pushed her way through and approached Harry Eastman's door.’
      • ‘She kept losing track of what she was talking about as people spilled out of the elevators and said who they'd lost and great washes of sadness and empathy passed over her face.’
      stream, pour, surge, swarm, flood, throng, crowd, mill
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4 (in the context of ball games) drop (the ball).
      • ‘Kildare were presented with an opportunity when city keeper Jimmy Fyfe collected a through ball before inexplicably spilling the ball at the feet of Zeller.’
      • ‘Their passing was sloppy, possession was given away too easily and balls were either spilled or over carried in promising attacks.’
      • ‘Yet, eight minutes into the game on Sunday and the prospects of that seemed unlikely after Cooper spilled the ball.’
      • ‘Ian Dwyer, Padraig Brennan, Bobby Baggott and Wesley Whitten raided enthusiastically late on in the half but spilled the ball.’
      • ‘Robbie Casey hurled a high ball into the middle, the Crusaders' keeper John Connelly came for the ball but spilled it.’
      • ‘A superb move between Kelly and Meade should have produced a try only for the ball to be spilled in sight of the line.’
      • ‘Aidan Doyle and Pat Cooper were putting in some really good tackles for Port and this led Mullingar to spill the ball on a number of occasions.’
      • ‘In the opening quarter they spilled ball after ball, kicked away possession and missed a succession of scoring chances, as they seemed to have the big day jitters.’
      • ‘A Robbie Griffin shot should have been easily collected by the goalkeeper but he spilled the ball and Darren McKenna was in to accept the gift.’
      • ‘A dreadful blunder from Paul Sackey presented the visitors with a series of five metre scrums that ended when Corry opted to pick and go - only to spill the ball forward as the rain began to pour down.’
      • ‘This mistake in preparation was extremely obvious on Sunday afternoon when the Warriors spilled the ball countless times when they were hot on attack.’
      • ‘A dazzling move started by the winger was also unfortunately ended by the same pair of hands, clumsily spilling the ball whilst attempting to offload.’
      • ‘Gareth Kelly was ready to pounce in case Heraghty spilled the ball.’
      • ‘But as Fennelly tackled him the ball was spilled and the Portlaoise player hacked it ahead.’
      • ‘York penned Horden back from the start and should have scored in the fifth minute but No 8 Andy Kay spilled the ball with the line in sight.’
      • ‘Five minutes later a great tackle from John Cookson resulted in a Blackpool player spilling the ball.’
      • ‘Too many times last Saturday ball was spilled in the tackle.’
    5. 1.5Sailing Let (wind) out of a sail, typically by slackening the sheets.
      • ‘Toby brought the dinghy under the cruiser's stern, spilling the wind as he did so.’
      • ‘With his constant guidance and criticism, they do their best to fashion sails that are strong yet can spill the wind quickly.’
  • 2informal Reveal (confidential information) to someone.

    ‘she ought not to be spilling out her troubles to you’
    • ‘In their testimony, some are reportedly spilling their confidential sources' secrets.’
    • ‘We were once more back at the apartment with Kane spilling the details of what had happened since my absence.’
    • ‘That night Billy goes home and almost spills the news to his family about the dogs.’
    • ‘If a company blogger spills financial information, it can get you in hot water with regulators.’
    • ‘The rumor mill had kicked into high gear until Calvin had broken down and spilled the news.’
    • ‘But what if one of them spills the news to his mother?’
    • ‘He knew it was rather early in the day to be smoking it, but he needed to relax before he spilled the big news to everyone.’
    • ‘Ariela glanced at Bull, to check if it was all right with him to spill information.’
    • ‘It took only two cosmopolitans and an apple martini before you spilled every detail of my enemies' presence.’
    • ‘Ice nodded and spilled any and all information the man asked for.’
    • ‘When he saw that he wasn't going anywhere without spilling the details, he sighed.’
    • ‘Okay, so this is where I spill the dirty secret, and reveal exactly why I'm so bitter.’
    • ‘I had no reason to not just come out with it and spill the news like I wanted to, but I just couldn't.’
    • ‘When we got her into her house she started spilling out everything, from what colour underwear she was wearing to why she had taken the drugs.’
    • ‘Chad watched Amy from across the room as Odette spilled the news about Kenny's death.’
    • ‘At once, she was spilling out every detail of her accident.’
    • ‘He just does not want to betray his friend by spilling out his secrets, so to avoid further conversation, he just turned away and went upstairs again.’
    • ‘They crowded around me and watched me expectantly, as if I would spill my darkest, most revealing secrets.’
    • ‘The more I talked about myself, the more likely I would be to spill that information.’
    • ‘As Abby kept spilling information it was all making sense.’
    reveal, disclose, divulge, let out, leak, blurt out, babble, betray, make known, tell
    View synonyms
  • 3Cause to fall off a horse or bicycle.

    ‘the horse was wrenched off course, spilling his rider’
    • ‘Cody's first round passed through one of Yellow Hair's legs and killed his horse, spilling the warrior to the ground.’
    unseat, throw, dislodge, unhorse
    View synonyms

noun

  • 1A quantity of liquid that has spilled or been spilt.

    ‘wipe up spills immediately’
    • ‘Heavy spills can be wiped off with a damp cloth when the burner is completely cold.’
    • ‘Use caution in applying it, and wipe up spills with a soapy detergent.’
    • ‘Wipe up any spills promptly with a damp soft cloth or paper towel.’
    • ‘Many spills can introduce oils into your carpet which attract dirt and help lead to a dingy looking carpet.’
    • ‘Wipe up any spills with a clean, wet cloth when the cooktop is cool.’
    • ‘Fill portable heaters outdoors, wipe up spills, and do not use old or contaminated fuel.’
    • ‘Check your work carefully, inspecting for missed spots, spills, drips, and other problems.’
    • ‘I am concerned about crumbs or spills falling through the gaps.’
    • ‘Wipe up spills promptly to avoid excessive smoke during the cleaning cycle.’
    • ‘For superficial spills simply wipe away excess with a clean warm absorbent cloth and air to dry.’
    • ‘It is easily softened by solvents and grease, so wipe up spills promptly and do not use solvents or solvent-based polishes on it.’
    • ‘Clean both stone surfaces daily with a soft cloth using mild dish soap, and wipe off any spills immediately.’
    • ‘‘I'll help clean it up,’ he said as he grabbed my shirt, wiping away at the spill on my chest.’
    • ‘Wipe up spills in the refrigerator promptly to avoid staining and odors.’
    • ‘Wipe up spills at once to prevent spots that require refinishing.’
    • ‘Following a regular maintenance schedule and wiping up any spills immediately should keep the interior of the car attractive and comfortable.’
    • ‘Caroline took a piece of rag they reserved to wipe off any spills.’
    • ‘Wipe up the spill quickly and rub the spot vigorously with your palm or with a cloth dipped in a small amount of furniture polish.’
    • ‘The bartender was doing the usual, polishing glasses and wiping the spills off the counter.’
    • ‘The rock keeps the area clean and allows any small spills to evaporate rather than be absorbed into the soil.’
    1. 1.1 An instance of a liquid spilling or being spilt.
      ‘he was absolved from any blame for the oil spill’
      • ‘The act also required that, by 2015, all tankers operating in U.S. waters be double-hulled to protect against spills.’
      • ‘Nobody came forward to say the spill had been an accident, so the assumption must be that it was a purposeful dumping, and one that the perpetrators got away with.’
      • ‘Authorities say a hazardous spill has been contained following a train collision just south of Chicago.’
      • ‘Each facility must develop procedures for handling accidents and chemical spills.’
      • ‘Although pink salmon and herring catches peaked in the two years immediately following the spill, the two fisheries have since collapsed.’
      • ‘In the middle of last month the exit road to the M50 was sealed off following a spill following a two-vehicle collision.’
      • ‘This information is crucial to the safety of the pharmacy staff and to their customers if a spill or other accident occurs.’
      • ‘Any of these mechanical methods for cleanup can be used immediately after a spill without prior approval from government officials.’
      • ‘We should view the Prestige oil spill not as a fluke or one-time accident.’
      • ‘Cooking fuel should be stored upright and away from your food, in case of an accidental spill.’
      • ‘Many human deaths have resulted from explosions or toxic cleaning chemicals in oil spills.’
      • ‘Pack a container of wet wipes in the car for accidental spills.’
      • ‘These exposures are usually the result of accidents, spills, or equipment failure.’
      • ‘There might have been fewer oil tankers out there and fewer oil spills.’
      • ‘And, once she had invented a slit valve that allowed liquid to be sucked out but prevented accidental spills, Mrs Haberman thought the hardest part was over.’
      • ‘Then there is the persistent threat of an oil spill.’
      • ‘No contingency plans for oil spills have been made.’
      • ‘And an oil spill or industrial disaster can wipe out big chunks of the environment.’
      • ‘As chemicals are dumped into the sea and oil spills occur, the turtles are fighting a losing battle.’
      • ‘Other refuges have been battered by oil drilling, toxic spills and massive floods, and few have had the political or financial muscle to defend themselves.’
  • 2A fall from a horse or bicycle.

    • ‘Take, for instance, the minor scrapes you can get from a mishap in the free-weight room, or from a spill on your bike.’
    • ‘One of the reasons I'm back right now riding after the terrible spill I had was the attachment I have to the horse that did this to me.’
    • ‘At one point in the show he told amusingly of how he took a spill in the road, and some of the pages fell out and were scattered.’
    fall, tumble, accident
    View synonyms
  • 3Australian A vacating of all or several posts in a cabinet or parliamentary party to allow reorganization after one important change of office.

Phrases

  • spill the beans

    • informal Reveal secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly.

      • ‘I am surprised that the affair happened, but I can't in all honesty be astonished that she has finally spilled the beans.’
      • ‘I went to the agency and spilled the beans - I was very confused about everything.’
      • ‘So why are so many politicians so prickly when one of their number spills the beans on another?’
      • ‘Webb spilled the beans to Taylor and Ferguson never forgave him.’
      • ‘It's not only the British insiders who're spilling the beans.’
      • ‘Eleven Italian masters were tracked down in Belgium after a doctor from Milan spilt the beans on a Belgian art dealer.’
      • ‘The girls scampered outside to play, so Laurie couldn't pump them for information - little children will usually spill the beans without meaning to.’
      • ‘I am certainly disappointed that since her death so many people that she trusted have broken that trust and for financial gain have spilt the beans.’
      • ‘I've spilled the beans and probably deserve to be cast into the outer darkness for offending the code concerning ‘journalistic ethics’.’
      • ‘In addition to telling us the good, the not-so-good and the surprising news about your relationship with food, you also spilled the beans on your deepest, darkest dieting secrets.’
      reveal everything, tell all, give the game away, talk
      View synonyms
  • spill (someone's) blood

    • Kill or wound people.

      • ‘Spill it, son, before I spill your blood for your crimes.’
      • ‘He's talking about a man who spilled his blood for the United States of America.’
      • ‘But I don't think they rejoice over spilling our blood nearly as much as they rejoice over the fear they put in our hearts.’
      • ‘For the first time since they saw me, they feared me more than they wanted to spill my blood.’
      • ‘‘Stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling your blood,’ the message added.’
      • ‘These people murdered the prophets; do you think they will stop spilling our blood?’
      • ‘If you cannot give that promise, and will not release yourself from your vow, I have no choice but to spill your blood out upon the sand.’
      • ‘They spilt their blood on foreign lands for us so that we can be free of oppression and divisiveness and so that this nation can be united.’
      • ‘This woman would have shot me down without any qualms, why should I feel sorry for spilling her blood?’
      • ‘All of you shall submit unquestioningly to my dominion, and I shall spill your blood if need be!’
  • spill one's guts

    • informal Reveal copious information to someone in an uninhibited way.

      • ‘There's something inherently unglamorous about someone sitting in front of a screen, spilling their guts.’
      • ‘If she feels the urge to spill her guts again, recommend that she speak to one of her friends instead.’
      • ‘Stephenson sat on the sink in his dressing-room while he spilled his guts about his marriage problems.’
      • ‘I can rant or cry or laugh or be stupid or spill my guts, and she understands.’
      • ‘She spills her guts and begs him not to tell Izzy.’
      • ‘There's something about the Internet that encourages us to spill our guts, often in rather outrageous ways.’
      • ‘But spilling my guts on an Internet blog diary everyday is not something that I'm into.’
      • ‘Well, it's not like he spills his guts to me or anything.’
      • ‘If you don't wind up spilling your guts, at least sound her out on the possibility of visiting her.’
      • ‘I was horrifically guilt-stricken and tempted to call his wife and spill my guts but I never did.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • spill over

    • (of a bad situation or strong emotion) reach a point at which it can no longer be controlled or contained.

      ‘years of frustration spilled over into violence’
      • ‘The benefits achieved in pensions efficiency are spilling over into other areas, notably the much maligned endowment.’
      • ‘This conviction spilled over into all areas of life.’
      • ‘Anger spilled over at the Scouts Association's annual general meeting last week concerning a proposed rise in annual fees over the next two years.’
      • ‘Video footage of her killing has made her into a symbol of the struggle for democracy, which this year spilt over into violence.’
      • ‘In addition, the aftermath of episodes of bullying may spill over to affect other service users in the ward community.’
      • ‘Most news media have conducted a blackout of the attacks, which some said have spilled over into the streets.’
      • ‘Their enthusiasm spilled over the footlights, enthusiasm always does.’
      • ‘She lost her job shortly afterwards, as the virtual anger spilled over into real life.’
      • ‘Are fears that ethnic strife may spill over to the neighbors exaggerated?’
      • ‘This new form of storytelling has even spilled over into journalism.’

Origin

Old English spillan ‘kill, destroy, waste, shed (blood’); of unknown origin.

Pronunciation

spill

/spɪl/

Main definitions of spill in English

: spill1spill2

spill2

noun

  • A thin strip of wood or paper used for lighting a fire, candle, pipe, etc.

    • ‘In front of us stood a low oaken table on which there was more mead and wine, and, appropriately for the room, a collection of long clay pipes, loose tobacco and spills.’

Origin

Middle English (in the sense ‘sharp fragment of wood’): obscurely related to spile. The current sense dates from the early 19th century.

Pronunciation

spill

/spɪl/