Spilt or Spilled – what is correct and how to use it

Irregular verb to Spill
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In our database, you can find the irregular verb ‘spill’ and we also prepared this simple image and PDF:

Irregular verb to Spill

This verb has both an irregular and regular form. You can use both and both are correct. Speakers in North America and Canada use spilled while the rest of the English-speaking world seems to prefer spilt.

Spilt and Spilled are also adjectives.

A very common idiom is „there’s no point crying over spilt milk„ to express regret about something that has already happened or cannot be changed.

But which is the most used one, spilt or spilled? Let´s look at Google Ngram Viewer tool which displays a graph showing how phrases have occurred in a corpus of books over the years.

Google Ngram Viewer for Spilt vs Spilled

Spilled is more used than Spilt from 1900, but the situation with „spilt/spilled milk“ gives us a different story:

 

The irregular pattern for Spill, Spilt, Spilled

We can group irregular verbs by their pattern. It means that more irregular verbs have the same pattern.

In the case of the verb ‘Spill’ we can see the same pattern with these verbs:

Infinitive Past simple Past participle
Smell Smelt / Smelled Smelt / Smelled
Deal Dealt Dealt
Feel Felt Felt
Keep Kept Kept
Leave Left Left
Sweep Swept Swept

There are many other verbs with the same pattern though.

Learning patterns is a good way how to learn the irregular forms.

Examples of the usage `Spilt` and `Spilled`

Let´s look at the current online media:

  • Doom Bar: Hydrochloric acid spilt at brewery in Cornwall – [BBC]
  • Spilt milk closes North Yorkshire road – [BBC]
  • M5 crash: Flour spilt across carriageway in crash– [BBC]
  • … there was a 11% increase in homicides nationwide after the protests sparked by Ferguson that spilled over into 2016– [CNN]
  • Tensions between the Pentagon and the Biden transition spilled into public view …– [CNN]
  • … where raw sewage from the nearby town spilled into the estuary and out to the ocean. – [CNN]

Meaning of Spill

The Oxford Dictionary says `Spill` means “​(especially of liquid) to flow over the edge of a container by accident; to make liquid do this”

  • Water had spilled out of the bucket onto the floor.
  • The bag split, and sugar spilled everywhere.
  •  (figurative) Light spilled from the windows.
  •  (figurative) He opened the curtains, letting the morning light spill into the room.
  •  spill something He startled her and made her spill her drink.
  • Thousands of gallons of crude oil were spilled into the ocean.
  • I managed to carry three full glasses without spilling a drop.
  • I accidentally spilled my drink all over him.

We can find very similar meaning in the Cambridge dictionary: to (cause to) flow, move, fall, or spread over the edge or outside the limits of something:“

  • I spilled coffee on my silk shirt.
  • You’ve spilled something down your tie.
  • Let’s see if I can pour the juice into the glass without spilling it.
  • He dropped a bag of sugar and it spilled all over the floor.
  • Crowds of fans spilled onto the field at the end of the game.

Synonyms for ‘Spill

  • Flow
  • Drip
  • Dribble
  • …atc…

 

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