What Does To the Victor Go the Spoils Mean?

To the Victor Go the Spoils Meaning

Definition: The winner gets the rewards.

Victor is a synonym for winner, and spoils are things forcibly taken from a person.

Origin of To the Victor Go the Spoils

This expression originated in America in the year 1832. William Marcy, a senator from New York, said They see nothing wrong in the rule that to the victor belongs the spoils of victory. He was making a political statement against the Democratic Party.

Examples of To the Victor Go the Spoils

to the victors belong the spoils In the conversation below, two friends are discussing an upcoming boxing match that they are going to be competing in.

Scott: Listen, I know that you and I are going to be competing against each other soon. I just wanted to say that whatever happens, I hope we’ll still be friends.

Tony: Yeah, me too. Anyway, I don’t really care who wins and who loses.

Scott: Really? Because I know we both really like Lindsay. I think she’ll want to date whichever one of us wins the boxing match.

Tony: Why do you think that?

Scott: You know, because to the victor go the spoils.

Tony: These are modern times. I don’t think she’ll make her decision on whom to date based on whoever wins the boxing match.

to the victor goes the spoils Two coworkers use the expression while talking about a contest in their workplace.

Richard: I hope our team wins.

Miranda: Yeah me too. They really gave us a lot of incentives. The winners will get three extra paid days off, free lunch for a month, and the best parking places.

Richard: I know. The benefits of winning are huge! It’s just such a tough competition. It’s hard for me to stay motivated.

Miranda: Yeah. I know what you mean. But we’re doing a great job so far, and there’s only one week left. Just do what I do whenever you feel like giving up. Remind yourself of the saying to the victor go the spoils. It’s hard right now, but it will feel so good once we have all those prizes.

Richard: I’ll try my best.

More Examples

The first example uses the expression to make a play on words. Another definition of spoil is the verb, which means to destroy the value of something.

  • To the victor go the spoils; but any presumption or perceived arrogance on the part of the two top candidates could spoil the political prospects for both. –LA Times

The second example is about a golf player who won an island.

  • To the victor go the spoils, and for Tiger Woods, winner of 14 major golf championships and one of the richest athletes on the planet, the spoils include, among other things, a private island in Sweden. LA Times


The saying to the victor go the spoils is another way to say that the triumphant person in a dispute wins that which they were fighting over.