- a tool for digging, having an iron blade adapted for pressing into the ground with the foot and a long handle commonly with a grip or crosspiece at the top, and with the blade usually narrower and flatter than that of a shovel.
- some implement, piece, or part resembling this.
- a sharp projection on the bottom of a gun trail, designed to dig into the earth to restrict backward movement of the carriage during recoil.
- to dig, cut, or remove with a spade (sometimes followed by up): Let's spade up the garden and plant some flowers.
- call a spade a spade, to call something by its real name; be candidly explicit; speak plainly or bluntly: To call a spade a spade, he's a crook.
- in spades, Informal.
- in the extreme; positively: He's a hypocrite, in spades.
- without restraint; outspokenly: I told him what I thought, in spades.
Origin of spade1
- a black figure shaped like an inverted heart and with a short stem at the cusp opposite the point, used on playing cards.
- a card of the suit bearing such figures.
- (used with a singular or plural verb)the suit so marked: Spades is trump. Spades count double.
- (used with a plural verb)Casino.the winning of seven spades or more.
- Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a black person.
Origin of spade2
Examples from the Web for spade
Because it is, as Spade and Wilse say, a “tool of social control used by governments to regulate sexuality and family formation.”Were Christians Right About Gay Marriage All Along?
May 27, 2014
But there are four other published Spade stories out there, and it would be nice to have them between covers in one volume.The Man With Stories to Tell
December 8, 2013
The administration refused to budge on calling a spade a spade.Time To Cut Off Egypt
August 14, 2013
“We need someone to call a spade a shovel,” said the second guy, referring to Obama.Rick Santorum’s Blue-Collar Fumble
March 7, 2012
Showing a picture of Murphy, Spade quipped, “Look, children, a falling star ... quick, make a wish.”Eddie Murphy's Road to Redemption
November 2, 2011
Here, professor, throw off that coat and nglig manner, and grasp this spade.In the Midst of Alarms
When a man struck some new thing with his spade, he called out.Buried Cities: Pompeii, Olympia, Mycenae
She called a spade a spade, and liked frankness and no under meaning to things.My Double Life
Then lift each plant with a spade or mattock slowly and skillfully.The Mayflower, January, 1905
The Prince took the spade and began to dig, though not very hopefully.Prince Vance
- a tool for digging, typically consisting of a flat rectangular steel blade attached to a long wooden handle
- an object or part resembling a spade in shape
- (as modifier)a spade beard
- a heavy metallic projection attached to the trail of a gun carriage that embeds itself into the ground and so reduces recoil
- a type of oar blade that is comparatively broad and shortCompare spoon (def. 6)
- a cutting tool for stripping the blubber from a whale or skin from a carcass
- call a spade a spade to speak plainly and frankly
- (tr) to use a spade on
- the black symbol on a playing card resembling a heart-shaped leaf with a stem
- a card with one or more of these symbols or (when pl) the suit of cards so marked, usually the highest ranking of the four
- a derogatory word for Black
- in spades informal in an extreme or emphatic way
Word Origin and History for spade
"tool for digging," Old English spadu, from Proto-Germanic *spadon (cf. Old Frisian spada, Middle Dutch spade, Old Saxon spado, Middle Low German spade, German Spaten), from PIE *spe- "long, flat piece of wood" (cf. Greek spathe "wooden blade, paddle," Old English spon "chip of wood, splinter," Old Norse spann "shingle, chip").
To call a spade a spade "use blunt language, call things by right names" (1540s) translates a Greek proverb (known to Lucian), ten skaphen skaphen legein "to call a bowl a bowl," but Erasmus mistook Greek skaphe "trough, bowl" for a derivative of the stem of skaptein "to dig," and the mistake has stuck.
"figure on playing cards," 1590s, probably from Italian spade, plural of spada "sword, spade," from Latin spatha "broad, flat weapon or tool," from Greek spathe "broad blade" (see spade (n.1)). Phrase in spades "in abundance" first recorded 1929 (Damon Runyon), probably from bridge, where spades are the highest-ranking suit.
The invitations to the musicale came sliding in by pairs and threes and spade flushes. [O.Henry, "Cabbages & Kings," 1904]
Derogatory meaning "black person" is 1928, from the color of the playing card symbol.