Definition of spoil in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Diminish or destroy the value or quality of.

    ‘I wouldn't want to spoil your fun’
    ‘a series of political blunders spoiled their chances of being re-elected’
    • ‘Am I spoiling things by saying you're in for a lot more disappointment before the series is over?’
    • ‘I can't really talk about it without spoiling it, but the Big Suprise Twist Ending is idiotic and cliched and I'm almost tempted to spoil it just on principle.’
    • ‘Just give the disappointing sequel a miss for fears of spoiling the excellence that lies within this self-contained laid-back comedic charmer.’
    • ‘I don't want to spoil the fun, but trust me, you should get a laugh out of this film.’
    • ‘It would spoil the mood you've created with the show.’
    • ‘Unfortunately to tell more would be to give things away I do not wish to spoil for you.’
    • ‘To actually meet him would probably have spoiled it though.’
    • ‘To describe any further than this is to spoil the fun.’
    • ‘However, even this isn't enough to spoil the film.’
    • ‘To say much more would spoil the fun - and great fun it is.’
    • ‘Part of the enjoyment in watching this movie is that the viewer doesn't know where the story is going, so I won't spoil the fun by giving away plot points.’
    • ‘Without spoiling too many details about the plot, his detailed planning suggests a level of thought and commitment that few people could match.’
    • ‘I'm dying to tell you exactly how he did it, but I don't want to spoil any surprises.’
    • ‘I'd tell you the lines, but then it would just end up spoiling the fun for you.’
    • ‘When I saw it first at Venice last year, where it was a deserved prizewinner, the effect was spoiled by - of all things - the showing of the reels in the wrong order.’
    • ‘And then I went and spoiled it all by buying this trade paperback.’
    • ‘The audience are audible throughout but not in such a way as to spoil the audio quality.’
    • ‘It's hardly a story you can spoil, I don't think, anyway.’
    • ‘These two things have rather spoilt the film for me, and if anyone else has seen it, I'd be interested in their thoughts.’
    • ‘I don't know, but it's certainly odd - not that it spoils the fun in any way.’
    mar, damage, impair, blemish, disfigure, blight, flaw, deface, scar, injure, harm
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    1. 1.1 Prevent someone from enjoying (an occasion or event)
      ‘she was afraid of spoiling Christmas for the rest of the family’
      • ‘I have been at enough shows spoiled by drunken fools trying to steal the spotlight for 5 minutes of fame, but the volunteers were well-behaved, funny, and added to the momentum of the show.’
      • ‘Finally, at half past seven the guests agreed it was a pity to spoil a good dinner and seated themselves to a delicious meal.’
      • ‘I don't want to get into too many details here, lest I spoil the experience for you.’
      • ‘In addition, the production proves a good 55 minutes too long, which spoils an otherwise excellent evening.’
      • ‘To say too much would be to spoil the occasion, but there are twists, turns and horrific blood curdling scenes of carnage.’
      • ‘It's time for the local variety show, but when a dead body turns up, the festivities are spoiled.’
      • ‘Theater owners like to throw up their hands and blame the shortcomings of the patrons and films, but they're not acknowledging their role in spoiling a once-magical experience.’
      ruin, wreck, destroy, upset, undo, mess up, make a mess of, dash, sabotage, scupper, scotch, torpedo, blast, vitiate
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    2. 1.2no object (of food) become unfit for eating.
      ‘I've got some ham that'll spoil if we don't eat it tonight’
      • ‘Restaurant and bar owners complained that the beer frequently spoiled before they could sell it.’
      • ‘Give the same role and we all would be better off watching ground beef spoil.’
      • ‘Did you know that honey is the only food that won't spoil?’
      • ‘The slide started a couple years ago when grain being stored there spoiled.’
      • ‘‘There are misperceptions - they ask why doesn't the milk spoil if it's not refrigerated,’ says Capelli.’
      • ‘Some farmers will even stick wooden fence posts into wet grain in the bins to keep it from spoiling - amazing, but it helps!’
      • ‘Grapes consisted of an actual bunch hanging on a string; as it spoiled, individual grapes spatted on the floor.’
      • ‘Sometimes there are crops that won't grow, grain that spoils, or a piece of machinery turns out to be a lemon.’
      go bad, go off, go rancid, turn, go sour, sour, go mouldy, moulder, become addled, curdle, become rotten, rot, perish, decompose, decay, putrefy
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  • 2Harm the character of (someone, especially a child) by being too lenient or indulgent.

    ‘the last thing I want to do is spoil Thomas’
    ‘a spoiled child’
    • ‘When an actor who looks like he or she is still in middle school behaves like a spoiled, insolent brat, it's nothing but par for the course.’
    • ‘Mrs. Reed is a rich, pretentious and condescending woman, and her children are terribly spoiled, cruel and rude.’
    • ‘Ector serves as the Daddy, although not one who has spoiled his adopted son.’
    • ‘And I was so spoiled that I had a very, let's say, ‘heavenly’ idea of the world.’
    • ‘Others chided her for spoiling him and she even tried to wean him off but could not bear to see his drawn face.’
    • ‘Although beautiful, she is quick-tempered and spoiled.’
    • ‘Though he is faster to commit to Lola, he is selfish and spoiled.’
    • ‘They are spoiled rotten rich brats led by an attorney's son.’
    • ‘Both husband and wife turn to Hunt for help, each implying that the other is mentally unbalanced, terrorizing or spoiling their only child, the five year old Alec.’
    • ‘She spoiled her son all his life, and always believed that her family was better than Lindo's because they were richer.’
    • ‘Another reason I could write that book was being an only child for so long, and spoiled, I never have believed that there could be consequences to my actions.’
    • ‘She was sweet and sensitive, but also spoiled, and could be bold.’
    • ‘She is beautiful, popular, spoiled, and having a great time spending her father's money.’
    • ‘The Children's Hour is about a spoiled brat at a boarding school who can't get her way and accuses two of the teachers of having a lesbian affair.’
    • ‘The boys are the spoiled children of rich, influential families.’
    • ‘As for families, children are spoiled and unfit for any labor, too soft to hold up to any pain, while the parents neglect everything but making money and do not care about excellence at all.’
    • ‘Though she was born a rich and spoiled girl, she ends up relatively poor and meek.’
    • ‘Simon Vincent plays the Birlings' alcoholic dandy of a son and perfectly exposes the irony present when a parent accuses their child of being spoilt.’
    • ‘Until then I had been a very spoiled child by my mother, my grandpa and my maternal family which was kind of a biblical family.’
    • ‘Wickham paints a dreadful picture of Darcy as a selfish and spoiled child who grew into a heartless and unjust man.’
    overindulge, pamper, indulge, mollycoddle, cosset, coddle, baby, spoon-feed, feather-bed, wait on hand and foot, cater to someone's every whim, wrap in cotton wool, overparent, kill with kindness
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    1. 2.1 Treat with great or excessive kindness, consideration, or generosity.
      ‘breakfast in bed—you're spoiling me!’
      • ‘Years ago, before my wife passed away, my wife spoiled me.’
      • ‘She begs him to ride the swing first - it is the first time in her life that she gets the chance to spoil Paul - or any man, for that matter.’
      • ‘Instead, old street associates of his mother spoilt him with gifts.’
      • ‘Captain Auld considers Douglass to have been spoiled by life in the city.’
      • ‘When she leaves him, she is pregnant with his son, whom she spoils with gifts and excess once born.’
      • ‘In another two scenes at a local cabaret venue, he spoils us with a couple more songs.’
      • ‘One realizes how much the director's best work has spoilt us.’
      • ‘‘We're spoiled here in L.A.,’ admits Schmidt, referring to the outdoor living possibilities presented by the area's coastal climate.’
      • ‘She tells Sancho that he can take his donkey with him when he becomes governor and spoil him.’
      • ‘She offers to let him ride again - it is the first time she gets to spoil a man.’
      • ‘It is Christmas time again, and the family spoils Beth with presents.’
  • 3be spoiling forno object Be extremely or aggressively eager for.

    ‘Cooper was spoiling for a fight’
    • ‘I didn't bother speaking because he was spoiling for a fight.’
    • ‘Liam sings it like a man who's spoiling for a fight.’
    • ‘But the drama was only just beginning and, as the Lords began debating the bill, it became obvious that they were spoiling for a fight.’
    • ‘Many of the girls who greeted Em warmly happened to date him at one time or another in their lives, and were spoiling for righteous retribution.’
    • ‘All right younger brother, you've been spoiling for this for weeks.’
    • ‘Not everyone, however, is spoiling for a fight.’
    • ‘As if publishers don't have enough to worry about, suddenly the man who oversees one of the greatest multimedia powers on earth is spoiling for a turf war.’
    • ‘He's not able to suggest much in the name of what should be done, but the king is clearly spoiling for action.’
    • ‘But you did not drive out the restless new spirit which is always spoiling for a fight.’
    • ‘These days everyone seems to be spoiling for a fight.’
    eager for, itching for, looking for, keen to have, raring for, after, bent on, set on, on the lookout for, longing for
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  • 4archaic Rob (a person or a place) of goods or possessions by force or violence.

    ransack, steal from, plunder, rob, raid, loot, rifle, sack
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  • 1usually spoilsGoods stolen or taken forcibly from a person or place.

    ‘the looters carried their spoils away’
    • ‘In football, the spoils go to the team that wins on the field, not the team that uses lobbyists and extortion behind closed doors.’
    • ‘As a result he becomes entangled in the collusions and convolutions one would expect from Ripley, and is then coerced into an escalating crime scheme whose spoils he hopes to leave behind for his family.’
    • ‘We've always been incredibly good at this sort of imperialistic thing of bringing back the spoils of our plunders overseas and putting a unique twist on them, and a little bit of dry British humor.’
    • ‘Having grown used to a privileged lifestyle, sleeping over at the palace and stuff, he liked it so much he wanted a share in the spoils.’
    • ‘He is able to reign in the outlaws when necessary, as when spoils are being split.’
    • ‘Locksley cheers the castle's demise, and tells his men to collect their spoils and bring them to the forest for equal division among the men.’
    • ‘Napoleon, however, claimed it as spoils in 1807.’
    • ‘It's important that I get a fair share of the spoils.’
    • ‘Men began to seek out new territories, mine for wealth, and battle each other for the spoils of war.’
    • ‘He goes along with Jan's revolutionary mumbo-jumbo but has no qualms about helping himself to the spoils of war.’
    • ‘The spoils of plunder were divided between temples, with the victor keeping his share.’
    • ‘Then comes the division of spoils, with a good amount going to the church, and widows and children, before the division among the outlaws.’
    • ‘Seeking to launder the spoils of a diamond heist, he visited the studio of Nicolas Poussin in early 1631 and purchased two paintings.’
    • ‘Needless to say, these two films shared the spoils, winning most of the major awards between them.’
    • ‘According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried along in the procession.’
    • ‘Finding himself the victor he takes an injured Tracy as his spoil of war.’
    • ‘When women refuse to be exchanged as war spoils, brides, or sacrifices, the system that was supposed to be cemented by these exchanges instead breaks down.’
    • ‘And where exactly did Adam read this inspirational tale, which recounts a Roman troop hauling away some feminine spoils of war, much to the kidnapped ladies' delight?’
    • ‘He dispersed the spoils among his men and made it known that only those who fought would get a part of the booty.’
    • ‘The Romans let victorious generals keep slaves and other spoils of war.’
    booty, loot, stolen goods, plunder, ill-gotten gains, haul, pickings, takings
    benefits, advantages, perks
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  • 2Waste material brought up during the course of an excavation or a dredging or mining operation.

    • ‘Down there in the mud the diggers heap spoil into piles.’
    • ‘In addition, all the run-off of the spoil caused the river to silt up and make it useless for navigation.’
    • ‘Steeped in stress because a spoil heap left from strip-mining threatens to crash down on his home, he spends most of his time sitting on a bicycle seat atop a 40-foot flag pole.’
    • ‘It also looks at how existing spoil heaps are being leveled and landscaped.’
    • ‘For corn, select only those sites where the mixed topsoil-upper subsoil placed over the spoil is of silt-loam or silty-clay loam texture.’
    • ‘Each labourer had his troop of small boys, carrying the excavation spoils in baskets to the surface.’
    • ‘Severe compaction sometimes occurs when the spoil or topsoil material is moved when too wet during the reclamation process.’
    • ‘These tests have yielded two species well-suited for planting on mine spoils or along roadsides.’
    • ‘In strip mine spoils in southeastern Ohio, values may be as low as pH 2.0.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘to plunder’): shortening of Old French espoille (noun), espoillier (verb), from Latin spoliare, from spolium ‘plunder, skin stripped from an animal’, or a shortening of despoil.