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to the victor belong the spoils

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The winner gets everything, as in He not only won the tournament but ended up with numerous lucrative endorsements—to the victor belong the spoils. This expression alludes to the spoils system of American politics, whereby the winner of an election gives desirable jobs to party supporters. [First half of 1800s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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