Out of Spite: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 22, 2023

The phrase "out of spite" denotes acting with the intent to annoy, upset, or harm, often in retaliation or out of malice. It's typically associated with actions taken to cause discomfort or harm without any personal gain.

In short:

"Out of spite" refers to actions undertaken with the purpose of causing annoyance or harm, often as a form of retaliation, without any direct benefit to oneself.

What Does "Out of Spite" Mean?

The idiom "out of spite" is used to convey actions or behavior motivated by a desire to annoy, hurt, or retaliate, usually with no direct benefit to the person acting. If you're doing something out of spite, you're probably trying to upset or hurt someone because you feel they've wronged you in some way.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning include:

  • Indicates actions motivated by malice or retaliation
  • Associated with interpersonal conflicts or disputes
  • Could indicate anything from minor annoyances to major acts of retaliation

Where Does "Out of Spite" Come From?

The word "spite" has a long history of denoting malice and harm. It entered the English language in the 14th century, originally referring to outrageous or injurious actions driven by hostile feelings or malignant intent. At the same time, it also came to mean the intense feelings of hatred, contempt, or desire to hurt that fuel such vengeful behavior. The phrase "out of spite" has been in use since the 16th century to describe actions that are taken in anger or frustration and are not necessarily rational or logical.

Historical Example

"Lutheran and other protestant writers have appeared not a little anxious to have Luther acquitted from the imputation of having opposed Tetzel out of spite to the Dominicans..."

- The History of Lynn, William Richards, 1812

10 Examples of "Out of Spite" in Sentences

Here are some examples of using the idiom in sentences:

  • He moved the trash bin in front of her house out of spite.
  • The incessant barking of the neighbor's dog riles up John, so out of spite, he plays loud music every morning.
  • The neighbor played loud music at night out of spite.
  • His history professor is the bane of his existence, so he spreads false rumors about her out of spite.
  • She deleted all the files from the shared drive out of spite.
  • He quit his job out of spite after a disagreement with his boss.
  • She divulged her sister's burner accounts out of spite.
  • Out of spite, he destroyed the painting she had made for him.
  • I know you don't like my new haircut but to each his own. I'm doing this out of spite for my boyfriend.
  • He refused to help Lola out of spite after she bailed on him.

Examples of "Out of Spite" in Pop Culture

The phrase "out of spite" often appears in media that deal with interpersonal conflicts or retaliation, such as dramas, reality TV shows, and novels.

Some examples include:

  • Out of Spite, Out of Mind is a 2018 Sci-fi book by Scott Meyer.
  • In the TV series Entourage (2004-2011), Ari Gold tells Terrance McQuewick, "Admit that you destroyed me out of spite, out of bitterness, and out of jealousy."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Out of Spite"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "out of spite."

Some of these include:

  • Acting out of malice
  • To harm intentionally
  • Acting vindictively
  • Out of resentment
  • With ill intent

You can use these alternatives interchangeably depending on the context and the level of harm or annoyance involved.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Out of Spite"

  • Is "out of spite" a formal expression?

"Out of spite" is considered neutral and can be used in both formal and informal contexts, depending on the nature of the actions being discussed.

  • Can people use the idiom sarcastically?

Yes, the phrase can be used sarcastically, particularly when the actions described are petty or overly dramatic in nature.

  • Is the phrase appropriate for professional settings?

While it can be used in professional settings to describe certain behaviors, it is typically more appropriate for personal or interpersonal discussions.

  • Can you use the phrase in a lighthearted or joking manner?

No, the idiom “out of spite” implies malicious intent and hurtful behavior, so it would be inappropriate to use it in a lighthearted or humorous way.

  • Does “out of spite” have to imply destructive behavior?

The idiom typically implies some degree of petty malice, anger or retaliation, so in most contexts, it does convey a sense of hurtfulness or vengefulness to at least some degree.

  • Can strangers use the phrase "out of spite"?

Yes, the phrase is not context-specific and can be used by anyone in any situation that involves malicious or retaliatory actions.

  • Is it okay to use the phrase when talking about a group of people?

Yes, it can be used when discussing a group's actions or decisions, such as "the team acted out of spite."

  • Is it okay to use the phrase to express personal feelings?

Yes, it can be used to convey personal feelings or motivations, particularly when describing actions taken in response to perceived slights or offenses.

  • What's the difference between "out of spite" and "out of anger"?

"Out of spite" implies a desire to harm or annoy, often without personal gain, while "out of anger" suggests an emotional reaction that might not necessarily be intended to cause harm.

  • Can one use the phrase in a legal context?

Yes, it can be used in a legal context to describe actions taken with the intent to cause harm or damage, such as in the case of spiteful actions during a dispute or a divorce proceeding.

Final Thoughts About "Out of Spite"

To sum it up, the idiom "out of spite" is a potent expression to describe actions taken with the intention of causing harm or annoyance, typically in response to a real or perceived slight. This neutral phrase is applicable across various settings and subjects, ranging from everyday interpersonal conflicts to legal disputes.

Key aspects of the phrase:

  • Represents the act of causing harm or annoyance intentionally
  • Indicates a reaction to a perceived wrong or slight
  • The neutral tone suitable for both formal and informal settings

While the phrase is versatile and widely recognized, it's crucial to remember that its usage implies a negative intent. Therefore, it's most appropriate in contexts that involve conflict or retaliation. Always consider the implications of the phrase before using it in any conversation or written communication.

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