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), spad·ed, spad·ing.

to dig, cut, or remove with a spade (sometimes followed by up): Let's spade up the garden and plant some flowers.

Nearby words

  1. spacious,
  2. spaciously,
  3. spackle,
  4. spacy,
  5. spad,
  6. spade foot,
  7. spade guinea,
  8. spadefish,
  9. spadefoot,
  10. spadefoot toad


    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 spade

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 formsspade·like, adjectivespad·er, nounun·spad·ed, adjective

Can be confusedspade spay




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.
  1. (used with a singular or plural verb)the suit so marked: Spades is trump. Spades count double.
  2. (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 spade

1590–1600; < Italian, plural of spada orig., sword < Latin spatha < Greek spáthē; see spade1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for spade

  • Pappy, I thought you 'uz goin' to git 'at long bed all spade' up fer me by noon.

    Seventeen|Booth Tarkington

British Dictionary definitions for spade




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 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
Derived Formsspader, noun

Word Origin for spade

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
in spades informal in an extreme or emphatic way

Word Origin for spade

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

Word Origin and History for spade
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with spade


see call a spade a spade; do the spadework; in spades.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.