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[speyd] /speɪd/
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.
verb (used with object), spaded, spading.
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.
  1. in the extreme; positively:
    He's a hypocrite, in spades.
  2. without restraint; outspokenly:
    I told him what I thought, in spades.
Origin of spade1
before 900; Middle English (noun); Old English spadu; cognate with Dutch spade, German Spaten, Old Norse spathi spade, Greek spáthē broad, flat piece of wood
Related forms
spadelike, adjective
spader, noun
unspaded, adjective
Can be confused
spade, spay. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for spading
Historical Examples
  • Evidently Anne intended to have no spading at random in a fair green orchard.

    The Prisoner Alice Brown
  • She had seen him spading in the orchard, and if Miss Lydia wanted to carry up the towels!

    The Prisoner Alice Brown
  • Its spading was a complicated business and it lay too far off to permit of conversation.

    Jerry Jean Webster
  • If Dominick can't find time to do the spading we'll just let it go.

    Torchy As A Pa Sewell Ford
  • He turned into his garden and watched Max, the robot, spading in the petunia bed.

    Cerebrum Albert Teichner
  • Talk, to me, is only spading up the ground for crops of thought.

    The Professor at the Breakfast Table Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.)
  • When the spading has been done, then use your rake and spare it not.

  • They went on with their spading in the fields, while shrapnel was pinging.

    Young Hilda at the Wars

    Arthur Gleason
  • "There's a loam for you," said an old gardener, spading an oval plot on a lawn.

    The Incendiary W. A. (William Augustine) Leahy
  • This may be done by spading and hoeing, but better by thorough mulching.

    Soil Culture J. H. Walden
British Dictionary definitions for spading


a tool for digging, typically consisting of a flat rectangular steel blade attached to a long wooden handle
  1. an object or part resembling a spade in shape
  2. (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 short Compare spoon (sense 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
(transitive) to use a spade on
Derived Forms
spader, noun
Word Origin
Old English spadu; related to Old Norse spathi, Old High German spato, Greek spathē blade


  1. the black symbol on a playing card resembling a heart-shaped leaf with a stem
  2. 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
(informal) in spades, in an extreme or emphatic way
Word Origin
C16: from Italian spada sword, used as an emblem on playing cards, from Latin spatha, from Greek spathē blade, broadsword
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for spading



"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for spading



A black person: The spades inhabited Harlem and let the ofays have Wall Street to themselves

[1928+; fr the color of the playing-card symbol and fr the phrase black as the ace of spades]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with spading
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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