verb (used with object), spilled or spilt, spill·ing.

  1. to cause or allow to run or fall from a container, especially accidentally or wastefully: to spill a bag of marbles; to spill milk.
  2. to shed (blood), as in killing or wounding.
  3. to scatter: to spill papers all over everything.
  4. Nautical.
    1. to let the wind out of (a sail).
    2. to lose (wind) from a sail.
  5. to cause to fall from a horse, vehicle, or the like: His horse spilled him.
  6. Informal. to divulge, disclose, or tell: Don’t spill the secret.

verb (used without object), spilled or spilt, spill·ing.

  1. (of a liquid, loose particles, etc.) to run or escape from a container, especially by accident or in careless handling.


  1. a spilling, as of liquid.
  2. a quantity spilled.
  3. the mark made by something spilled.
  4. a spillway.
  5. Also called spill light. superfluous or useless light rays, as from theatrical or photographic lighting units.
  6. Theater. an area of a stage illuminated by spill light.
  7. a throw or fall from a horse, vehicle, or the like: She broke her arm in a spill.


  1. spill the beans. bean(def 11).
  2. spill/toss one’s cookies. cookie(def 7).

verb spills, spilling, spilt or spilled (mainly tr)

  1. (when intr, usually foll by from, out of, etc) to fall or cause to fall from or as from a container, esp unintentionally
  2. to disgorge (contents, occupants, etc) or (of contents, occupants, etc) to be disgorgedthe car spilt its passengers onto the road; the crowd spilt out of the theatre
  3. to shed (blood)
  4. Also: spill the beans informal to disclose something confidential
  5. nautical to let (wind) escape from a sail or (of the wind) to escape from a sail


  1. informal a fall or tumble
  2. short for spillway
  3. a spilling of liquid, etc, or the amount spilt
  4. Australian the declaring of several political jobs vacant when one higher up becomes sothe Prime Minister’s resignation could mean a Cabinet spill


  1. a splinter of wood or strip of twisted paper with which pipes, fires, etc, are lit
  2. a small peg or rod made of metal

v.Old English spillan “destroy, kill,” variant of spildan, from Proto-Germanic *spelthijanan (cf. Old High German spildan “to spill,” Old Saxon spildian, Old Norse spilla “to destroy,” Middle Dutch spillen “to waste”), from PIE *spel- “to split, break off” (cf. Middle Dutch spalden, Old High German spaltan “to split;” for further cognates, see spoil). Related: Spilled; spilling. Sense of “let (liquid) fall or run out” developed mid-14c. from use of the word in reference to shedding blood (early 12c.). Intransitive sense is from 1650s. Spill the beans recorded by 1910 in a sense of “spoil the situation;” to cry for spilt milk (usually with negative) is attested from 1738. n.1845, originally “a throw from a horse,” from spill (v.). In addition to the idiom beginning with spill

  • spill the beans
  • also see:

  • shed (spill) blood
  • take a spill
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