Intermediate+ Word of the Day: spite

spite (noun, verb) /spaɪt/ LISTEN

Spite might make you feel like doing this to someone.

Spite is the mean desire to humiliate, annoy, or harm someone else or a particular instance of such feeling. As a verb, to spite means ‘to treat someone with spite’ or ‘to annoy them because of feeling spiteful.’

Example sentences

  • Rachel feels so much spite towards her ex-husband that she does everything she can to make his life difficult.
  • Seeing his colleague promoted instead of him, Joe felt a stab of spite.
  • At school, the other kids spited me at every opportunity.
  • Lucy didn't really want her brother's watch, but she stole it just to spite him.

Words often used with spite

in spite of: despite, notwithstanding. Example: “Fred was determined to finish the task, in spite of the difficulties.”

cut off your nose to spite your face: do something to spite another person even though you suffer because of it yourself. Example: “By firing that brilliant employee just because she contradicted him, the boss is really cutting off his nose to spite his face; the company will suffer for it in the end.”

out of spite: because of feeling spite. Example: “Stephanie shouldn’t have told James his colleagues had been making jokes about him; she only did it out of spite because the boss likes him better than her.”

In pop culture

Have you heard the band Morphine? They were a power trio with an unusual sound for a rock band, playing with a two-string bass guitar, a baritone saxophone and drums. You can listen to their song “In Spite of Me” here:

Did you know?

Another way of expressing the idea that someone did something or something happened in spite of something else is to use although, even though, or though. The difference between those terms and in spite of or despite is that although, even though, and though must be followed by a clause, whereas in spite of or despite are followed by a noun or noun phrase. So, for example, you can say “We made it to our destination, in spite of the bad weather,” but if you want to use although, even though, or though, you have to say, “We made it to our destination, even though the weather was bad.”

Other forms

spitefulness (noun), spiteful (adjective), spitefully (adverb)


Spite dates back to the late 13th century. The noun is originally a shortened form of despite, which itself came into English through Old French. It can be traced back to the Latin despectus (scorn, contempt), and is related to the preposition despite and the verb despise in English, as well as the Middle Dutch spijt, the Middle Low German spyt and the Middle Swedish spit (all meaning spite). During the spelling reformation of the 16th century, it was spelled spight, a form that remained in common use well into the 17th century. The phrase in spite of has been used since the end of the 14th century, originally with the literal meaning (in contempt or defiance of), and later to mean ‘notwithstanding’ as well. The verb comes from the noun, and dates back to around the year 1400.

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