Spite vs respite

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Although the words spite and respite appear to be related words, they are not. We will look at the quite different definitions of spite and respite, their differing origins, and some examples of the use of these two words in sentences.

Spite means maliciousness, a desire to harm others, the act of harming or vexing others. Spite is used as a noun and a verb, related words are spites, spited, spiting. The word spite has a French origin, the word despit, which means malice.

Respite means a pause from working, a short rest, a time of relief. Respite may also refer to a short reprieve from an unpleasant obligation or punishment or the act of granting such a reprieve. Related words are respites, respited, respiting. The word respite is also derived from an Old French word, respit, which means delay. Note that the words spite and respite, though similar in spelling, are derived from two different origins and have two very different definitions.


“His blood was sufficient for our salvation, but in spite of all God has done for us, we continue to make the world a worse place in which to live.” (The Nation News)

Sometimes this is done for spite, as when Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled the lawsuit launched by wrestler Hulk Hogan against the website Gawker. (The Los Angeles Times)

That is why a political ad out of Texas is a nice respite from the onslaught of the down-and-dirty ads choking the airwaves this time of year. (The Seattle Times)

The heavy rains brought respite from hot and sultry weather conditions continuing from past many days. (The Times of India)