c. 1300, shortened form of despit "malice" (see despite). Corresponding to Middle Dutch spijt, Middle Low German spyt, Middle Swedish spit. In 17c. commonly spelled spight. Phrase in spite of is recorded from c. 1400, literally "in defiance or contempt of," hence "notwithstanding." Spite-fence "barrier erected to cause annoyance" is from 1889.