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’
    • ‘He doesn't mind all of the ink being spilt on him but don't try and get him to read the stuff.’
    • ‘John spills water on a photo slide he is examining, the red color appearing as spilled blood.’
    • ‘Hey, remember, when we went into Granny's study and accidentally spilt her ink all over the carpet?’
    • ‘It seemed to work, because his head jerked upward and he spilt some water on the ground.’
    • ‘John nearly spilled his water trying to set the glass down to take a better look at the picture.’
    • ‘I fell asleep soon enough and of course spilled my soda all over the carpet.’
    • ‘And he did so without spilling a single drop of champagne on his silver tray.’
    • ‘One weekend she had come in with his water and had spilled his coffee.’
    • ‘She nearly spilled the water in his lap as she thrust the two objects at him.’
    • ‘I move to the far side of the porch and almost fall trying pull myself up onto the railing, spilling my drink.’
    • ‘He picks it up and passes it to her being careful not to spill a drop.’
    • ‘Shara's hand shook as she picked up a cup of coffee, spilling the now-cold liquid on the article she had just concluded.’
    • ‘I spilled the water on the chair and glared furiously at Will in response.’
    • ‘I place the mugs on a small wooden tray and carry it out to the divan, trying not to spill the hot liquid.’
    • ‘He yanked the glass to his face, spilling the water over the front of him.’
    • ‘Casey slid the beer in front of him, careful not to spill a drop.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I took a drink but she wasn't as careful as she thought and spilled some water down my chest.’
    • ‘A bottle of chemical fertilizer had been knocked askew, spilling the liquid in a pool on the concrete floor.’
    knock over, tip over, upset, overturn
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[no 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’
      • ‘Antonio pressed further and the red liquid spilled onto her shirt.’
      • ‘Sophie sustained first, second and third degree burns when a bowl of boiling water spilled over her torso and legs.’
      • ‘Then she stepped forward, and hugged him while the tears spilled over.’
      • ‘As the freezing water spilled over her she could feel the goosebumps rise on her skin.’
      • ‘The tears spilled over my eyelids and flowed down my face.’
      • ‘The putrid liquid spilled over the ground beneath the table, leaving the stench to rise up through the cracks.’
      • ‘His arms lay limp across his bed as his contained tears spilled over the pillow.’
      • ‘Someone dropped his glass of wine and the red liquid spilt across the marble floor.’
      • ‘Crocodile tears spilled over onto Millicent's cheeks and she stood with downcast eyes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her hand shook the glass and water spilled onto the tablecloth.’
      • ‘The blood droplets spilled onto the floor, marking my drunken journey.’
      • ‘Tears spilled over those beautiful cheeks as she started sniffling.’
      • ‘The door to the warehouse was flung open and light spilled over Stephanie's face.’
      • ‘The test tube broke, and a flush of liquid spilled over onto Marsha.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She held his gaze until the tears spilled over onto her cheeks.’
      • ‘The tears spilled over and started to run down her cheeks.’
      • ‘As he did so light spilled over her lovely face suddenly and he was dumbstruck.’
      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’
      • ‘Her books spilled out of her arms and onto the warm ground.’
      • ‘The crib was on its side and the contents were almost all spilled out by the force.’
      • ‘The envelope was protruding from his pocket, the contents spilling out.’
      • ‘Luckily for him, the soft food hadn't spilled out of the bowls.’
      • ‘He dropped his box of comics at his feet and the contents spilled out onto the concrete tarmac.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The blue sack landed forcefully, spilling out most of its contents.’
      • ‘She wasn't in the bathroom and her purse had been left behind, sitting on the bedside dresser with its contents spilling out.’
      • ‘Walking through the tiny hallway, the top box toppled over, the entire contents spilling out.’
      • ‘Looking down, he saw his bookbag lying on its side, the top flap open and its contents spilled 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.’
      • ‘Her bag of groceries slipped from her hands, falling to the street below, its contents spilling out at her feet.’
      • ‘Boxes are scattered all over the floor, contents spilling out.’
      • ‘The contents spilled out on the chair, but Keiko couldn't care less.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Boxes were everywhere, some open with their contents spilling out, while others had been shoved to the side, to be sorted through later.’
      • ‘The contents of her backpack spilled out, many items breaking with a resounding crash as a result.’
      • ‘Costumes spilled out of crates and both men and women wore masks of make-up.’
      • ‘The piece then moved and slid over, several empty cans spilled out.’
    3. 1.3[no object, with adverbial of direction] (of a number of people) move out of somewhere quickly:
      ‘students began to spill out of the building’
      • ‘Patrons spilled out into the street and smiles were everywhere.’
      • ‘The bell must have rung because students began spilling out from the school.’
      • ‘I pulled away from him eventually as the bell rang again, and people began spilling outside for recess.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In a frenzied rush of limbs, they spilled out of the car.’
      • ‘The funeral was held at the VA Center chapel and the standing-room-only crowd spilled out into the street.’
      • ‘And as the crowds spilled out of Mount Juliet last night, the tills were still ringing long and loud.’
      • ‘As everyone spilled out of the studio and into the corridor, Adele pushed her way through and approached Harry Eastman's door.’
      • ‘The crowd spilled out over the Park, and the police were drowned out by the screaming.’
      • ‘Then we spilled out into the corridor, babbling incoherently and the experience that none of us would ever forget came to an end.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Students spilled out of the classroom, some of them looking at me oddly.’
      • ‘A serpentine queue for check-in had spilled out in the street from the vast hall at five in the morning.’
      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.’
      • ‘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 dazzling move started by the winger was also unfortunately ended by the same pair of hands, clumsily spilling the ball whilst attempting to offload.’
      • ‘But as Fennelly tackled him the ball was spilled and the Portlaoise player hacked it ahead.’
      • ‘A superb move between Kelly and Meade should have produced a try only for the ball to be spilled in sight of the line.’
      • ‘Gareth Kelly was ready to pounce in case Heraghty spilled the ball.’
      • ‘Ian Dwyer, Padraig Brennan, Bobby Baggott and Wesley Whitten raided enthusiastically late on in the half but spilled the ball.’
      • ‘Too many times last Saturday ball was spilled in the tackle.’
      • ‘Yet, eight minutes into the game on Sunday and the prospects of that seemed unlikely after Cooper spilled the ball.’
      • ‘Their passing was sloppy, possession was given away too easily and balls were either spilled or over carried in promising attacks.’
      • ‘This mistake in preparation was extremely obvious on Sunday afternoon when the Warriors spilled the ball countless times when they were hot on attack.’
      • ‘Robbie Casey hurled a high ball into the middle, the Crusaders' keeper John Connelly came for the ball but spilled it.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Five minutes later a great tackle from John Cookson resulted in a Blackpool player spilling the ball.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    5. 1.5Sailing Let (wind) out of a sail, typically by slackening the sheets.
      • ‘With his constant guidance and criticism, they do their best to fashion sails that are strong yet can spill the wind quickly.’
      • ‘Toby brought the dinghy under the cruiser's stern, spilling the wind as he did so.’
  • 2informal Reveal (confidential information) to someone:

    ‘she ought not to be spilling out her troubles to you’
    • ‘Chad watched Amy from across the room as Odette spilled the news about Kenny's death.’
    • ‘That night Billy goes home and almost spills the news to his family about the dogs.’
    • ‘At once, she was spilling out every detail of her accident.’
    • ‘If a company blogger spills financial information, it can get you in hot water with regulators.’
    • ‘In their testimony, some are reportedly spilling their confidential sources' secrets.’
    • ‘They crowded around me and watched me expectantly, as if I would spill my darkest, most revealing secrets.’
    • ‘As Abby kept spilling information it was all making sense.’
    • ‘The rumor mill had kicked into high gear until Calvin had broken down and spilled the news.’
    • ‘Okay, so this is where I spill the dirty secret, and reveal exactly why I'm so bitter.’
    • ‘Ariela glanced at Bull, to check if it was all right with him to spill information.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We were once more back at the apartment with Kane spilling the details of what had happened since my absence.’
    • ‘I had no reason to not just come out with it and spill the news like I wanted to, but I just couldn't.’
    • ‘But what if one of them spills the news to his mother?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When he saw that he wasn't going anywhere without spilling the details, he sighed.’
    • ‘Ice nodded and spilled any and all information the man asked for.’
    • ‘The more I talked about myself, the more likely I would be to spill that information.’
    • ‘It took only two cosmopolitans and an apple martini before you spilled every detail of my enemies' presence.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’
    • ‘Wipe up any spills with a clean, wet cloth when the cooktop is cool.’
    • ‘Wipe up spills in the refrigerator promptly to avoid staining and odors.’
    • ‘Check your work carefully, inspecting for missed spots, spills, drips, and other problems.’
    • ‘Caroline took a piece of rag they reserved to wipe off any spills.’
    • ‘Wipe up spills at once to prevent spots that require refinishing.’
    • ‘For superficial spills simply wipe away excess with a clean warm absorbent cloth and air to dry.’
    • ‘Fill portable heaters outdoors, wipe up spills, and do not use old or contaminated fuel.’
    • ‘The bartender was doing the usual, polishing glasses and wiping the spills off the counter.’
    • ‘‘I'll help clean it up,’ he said as he grabbed my shirt, wiping away at the spill on my chest.’
    • ‘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 rock keeps the area clean and allows any small spills to evaporate rather than be absorbed into the soil.’
    • ‘Use caution in applying it, and wipe up spills with a soapy detergent.’
    • ‘Wipe up spills promptly to avoid excessive smoke during the cleaning cycle.’
    • ‘Following a regular maintenance schedule and wiping up any spills immediately should keep the interior of the car attractive and comfortable.’
    • ‘Wipe up any spills promptly with a damp soft cloth or paper towel.’
    • ‘Clean both stone surfaces daily with a soft cloth using mild dish soap, and wipe off any spills immediately.’
    • ‘It is easily softened by solvents and grease, so wipe up spills promptly and do not use solvents or solvent-based polishes on it.’
    • ‘I am concerned about crumbs or spills falling through the gaps.’
    • ‘Many spills can introduce oils into your carpet which attract dirt and help lead to a dingy looking carpet.’
    • ‘Heavy spills can be wiped off with a damp cloth when the burner is completely cold.’
    1. 1.1 An instance of a liquid spilling or being spilt:
      ‘he was absolved from any blame for the oil spill’
      • ‘There might have been fewer oil tankers out there and fewer oil spills.’
      • ‘In the middle of last month the exit road to the M50 was sealed off following a spill following a two-vehicle collision.’
      • ‘Each facility must develop procedures for handling accidents and chemical spills.’
      • ‘No contingency plans for oil spills have been made.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Although pink salmon and herring catches peaked in the two years immediately following the spill, the two fisheries have since collapsed.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Then there is the persistent threat of an oil spill.’
      • ‘We should view the Prestige oil spill not as a fluke or one-time accident.’
      • ‘Any of these mechanical methods for cleanup can be used immediately after a spill without prior approval from government officials.’
      • ‘Pack a container of wet wipes in the car for accidental spills.’
      • ‘Many human deaths have resulted from explosions or toxic cleaning chemicals in oil spills.’
      • ‘These exposures are usually the result of accidents, spills, or equipment failure.’
      • ‘This information is crucial to the safety of the pharmacy staff and to their customers if a spill or other accident occurs.’
      • ‘Cooking fuel should be stored upright and away from your food, in case of an accidental spill.’
      • ‘The act also required that, by 2015, all tankers operating in U.S. waters be double-hulled to protect against spills.’
  • 2A fall from a horse or bicycle.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Take, for instance, the minor scrapes you can get from a mishap in the free-weight room, or from a spill on your bike.’
    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.

      • ‘Webb spilled the beans to Taylor and Ferguson never forgave him.’
      • ‘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 went to the agency and spilled the beans - I was very confused about everything.’
      • ‘I've spilled the beans and probably deserve to be cast into the outer darkness for offending the code concerning ‘journalistic ethics’.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So why are so many politicians so prickly when one of their number spills the beans on another?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's not only the British insiders who're spilling the beans.’
      • ‘I am surprised that the affair happened, but I can't in all honesty be astonished that she has finally spilled the beans.’
      • ‘Eleven Italian masters were tracked down in Belgium after a doctor from Milan spilt the beans on a Belgian art dealer.’
      reveal everything, tell all, give the game away, talk
      let the cat out of the bag, blab, spill one's guts, come clean
      blow the gaff
      View synonyms
  • spill (someone's) blood

    • Kill or wound people.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Spill it, son, before I spill your blood for your crimes.’
      • ‘This woman would have shot me down without any qualms, why should I feel sorry for spilling her blood?’
      • ‘For the first time since they saw me, they feared me more than they wanted to spill my blood.’
      • ‘These people murdered the prophets; do you think they will stop spilling our blood?’
      • ‘‘Stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling your blood,’ the message added.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He's talking about a man who spilled his blood for the United States of America.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I can rant or cry or laugh or be stupid or spill my guts, and she understands.’
      • ‘Stephenson sat on the sink in his dressing-room while he spilled his guts about his marriage problems.’
      • ‘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 she feels the urge to spill her guts again, recommend that she speak to one of her friends instead.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This new form of storytelling has even spilled over into journalism.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Are fears that ethnic strife may spill over to the neighbors exaggerated?’
      • ‘Their enthusiasm spilled over the footlights, enthusiasm always does.’
      • ‘Most news media have conducted a blackout of the attacks, which some said have spilled over into the streets.’
      • ‘This conviction spilled over into all areas of life.’
      • ‘She lost her job shortly afterwards, as the virtual anger spilled over into real life.’

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/