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[spir-it] /ˈspɪr ɪt/
the principle of conscious life; the vital principle in humans, animating the body or mediating between body and soul.
the incorporeal part of humans:
present in spirit though absent in body.
the soul regarded as separating from the body at death.
conscious, incorporeal being, as opposed to matter:
the world of spirit.
a supernatural, incorporeal being, especially one inhabiting a place, object, etc., or having a particular character:
evil spirits.
a fairy, sprite, or elf.
an angel or demon.
an attitude or principle that inspires, animates, or pervades thought, feeling, or action:
the spirit of reform.
(initial capital letter) the divine influence as an agency working in the human heart.
a divine, inspiring, or animating being or influence. Num. 11:25; Is. 32:15.
(initial capital letter) the third person of the Trinity; Holy Spirit.
the soul or heart as the seat of feelings or sentiments, or as prompting to action:
a man of broken spirit.
spirits, feelings or mood with regard to exaltation or depression:
low spirits; good spirits.
excellent disposition or attitude in terms of vigor, courage, firmness of intent, etc.; mettle:
That's the spirit!
temper or disposition:
meek in spirit.
an individual as characterized by a given attitude, disposition, character, action, etc.:
A few brave spirits remained to face the danger.
the dominant tendency or character of anything:
the spirit of the age.
vigorous sense of membership in a group:
college spirit.
the general meaning or intent of a statement, document, etc. (opposed to letter):
the spirit of the law.
Chemistry. the essence or active principle of a substance as extracted in liquid form, especially by distillation.
Often, spirits. a strong distilled alcoholic liquor.
Chiefly British. alcohol.
Pharmacology. a solution in alcohol of an essential or volatile principle; essence (def 3).
any of certain subtle fluids formerly supposed to permeate the body.
the Spirit, God.
pertaining to something that works by burning alcoholic spirits:
a spirit stove.
of or relating to spiritualist bodies or activities.
verb (used with object)
to animate with fresh ardor or courage; inspirit.
to encourage; urge on or stir up, as to action.
to carry off mysteriously or secretly (often followed by away or off):
His captors spirited him away.
out of spirits, in low spirits; depressed:
We were feeling out of spirits after so many days of rain.
Origin of spirit
1200-50; Middle English (noun) < Latin spīritus orig., a breathing, equivalent to spīri-, combining form representing spīrāre to breathe + -tus suffix of v. action
Related forms
spiritlike, adjective
nonspirit, noun
outspirit, verb (used with object)
unspiriting, adjective
Can be confused
spirit, sprite.
2. life, mind, consciousness, essence. 5. apparition, phantom, shade. See ghost. 6. goblin, hobgoblin. 7. genius. 14. enthusiasm, energy, zeal, ardor, fire, enterprise. 15. attitude, mood, humor. 17. nature, drift, tenor, gist, essence, sense, complexion. 19. intention, significance, purport. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for spirit away
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They would not allow him to resist, but fettered him and led his spirit away.

  • For some reason or other, those scoundrels have found it imperatively necessary to spirit away the body of Sir Charles.

    The Slave of Silence Fred M. White
  • It seemed to take all the spirit away from her, as if she did not care for books, lessons, or anything else.

    Countess Kate Charlotte M. Yonge
  • The onlookers seized similar weapons and defended themselves, or drove the spirit away by threatening him with a small dog.

    The Tinguian Fay-Cooper Cole
  • At this juncture comes by one of those sort of people who, it seems, made it their business to spirit away little children.

  • It had left its paw print in the earth beside Pierre's body when it took his spirit away.

    Shaman Robert Shea
  • An angel, noticing a lovely child in its cradle, and deeming it too pure for earth, bears its spirit away to Heaven.

  • She did not quite know what was the matter with her; it seemed as if something had suddenly knocked all her spirit away.

British Dictionary definitions for spirit away


noun the Spirit
  1. another name for the Holy Spirit
  2. God, esp when regarded as transcending material limitations
the influence of God or divine things upon the soul
(Christian Science) God or divine substance


the force or principle of life that animates the body of living things
temperament or disposition: truculent in spirit
liveliness; mettle: they set to it with spirit
the fundamental, emotional, and activating principle of a person; will: the experience broke his spirit
a sense of loyalty or dedication: team spirit
the prevailing element; feeling: a spirit of joy pervaded the atmosphere
state of mind or mood; attitude: he did it in the wrong spirit
(pl) an emotional state, esp with regard to exaltation or dejection: in high spirits
a person characterized by some activity, quality, or disposition: a leading spirit of the movement
the deeper more significant meaning as opposed to a pedantic interpretation: the spirit of the law
that which constitutes a person's intangible being as contrasted with his physical presence: I shall be with you in spirit
  1. an incorporeal being, esp the soul of a dead person
  2. (as modifier): spirit world
verb (transitive)
usually foll by away or off. to carry off mysteriously or secretly
(often foll by up) to impart animation or determination to
Word Origin
C13: from Old French esperit, from Latin spīritus breath, spirit; related to spīrāre to breathe


(often pl) any distilled alcoholic liquor such as brandy, rum, whisky, or gin
  1. an aqueous solution of ethanol, esp one obtained by distillation
  2. the active principle or essence of a substance, extracted as a liquid, esp by distillation
  1. a solution of a volatile substance, esp a volatile oil, in alcohol
  2. (as modifier): a spirit burner
(alchemy) any of the four substances sulphur, mercury, sal ammoniac, or arsenic
Word Origin
C14: special use of spirit1, name applied to alchemical substances (as in sense 4), hence extended to distilled liquids
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for spirit away



mid-13c., "animating or vital principle in man and animals," from Old French espirit, from Latin spiritus "soul, courage, vigor, breath," related to spirare "to breathe," from PIE *(s)peis- "to blow" (cf. Old Church Slavonic pisto "to play on the flute").

Original usage in English mainly from passages in Vulgate, where the Latin word translates Greek pneuma and Hebrew ruah. Distinction between "soul" and "spirit" (as "seat of emotions") became current in Christian terminology (e.g. Greek psykhe vs. pneuma, Latin anima vs. spiritus) but "is without significance for earlier periods" [Buck]. Latin spiritus, usually in classical Latin "breath," replaces animus in the sense "spirit" in the imperial period and appears in Christian writings as the usual equivalent of Greek pneuma.

Meaning "supernatural being" is attested from c.1300 (see ghost); that of "essential principle of something" (in a non-theological sense, e.g. Spirit of St. Louis) is attested from 1690, common after 1800. Plural form spirits "volatile substance" is an alchemical idea, first attested 1610; sense narrowed to "strong alcoholic liquor" by 1670s. This also is the sense in spirit level (1768).



1590s, "to make more active or energetic" (of blood, alcohol, etc.), from spirit (n.). The meaning "carry off or away secretly" (as though by supernatural agency) is first recorded 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spirit away in Medicine

spirit spir·it (spĭr'ĭt)

  1. spirits An alcohol solution of an essential or volatile substance.

  2. spirits An alcoholic beverage, especially distilled liquor.

  3. A liquid that has been distilled.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Idioms and Phrases with spirit away

spirit away

Carry off mysteriously or secretly, as in The police found that the documents had been spirited away from the office. This term derives from the noun spirit, in the sense of “a supernatural being such as a ghost.” [ Second half of 1600s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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