on the square,
    1. at right angles.
    2. Informal.straightforward; honest; just: Their dealings with us have always been on the square.
    out of square,
    1. not at right angles.
    2. not in agreement; incorrect; irregular: The inspector's conclusions are out of square with his earlier report.
    square the circle, to strive without chance of success; attempt the impossible.

Origin of square

1250–1300; (noun) Middle English < Old French esquar(r)e < Vulgar Latin *exquadra, derivative of *exquadrāre (Latin ex- ex-1 + quadrāre to square; see quadrate); (v.) Middle English squaren < Old French esquarrer < Vulgar Latin *exquadrāre; (adj.) Middle English < Old French esquarré, past participle of esquarrer; (adv.) derivative of the adj.
Related formssquar·a·ble, adjectivesquare·like, adjectivesquare·ness, nounsquar·er, nounun·squar·a·ble, adjectiveun·squared, adjective

Synonyms for square Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for square off

square off


(intr, adverb) to assume a posture of offence or defence, as in boxing



a plane geometric figure having four equal sides and four right anglesCompare rectangle, rhombus
any object, part, or arrangement having this or a similar shapea square of carpet; a square on a chess board
(capital when part of name) an open area in a town, sometimes including the surrounding buildings, which may form a square
maths the product of two equal factors; the second power9 is the square of 3, written 3²
an instrument having two strips of wood, metal, etc, set in the shape of a T or L, used for constructing or testing right angles
cricket the closely-cut area in the middle of a ground on which wickets are prepared
a body of soldiers drawn up in the form of a square
rowing the position of the blade of an oar perpendicular to the surface of the water just before and during a stroke
informal a person who is old-fashioned in views, customs, appearance, etc
astrology an aspect of about 90° between two planets, etcSee conjunction (def. 5), opposition (def. 9), trine (def. 1)
obsolete a standard, pattern, or rule
back to square one indicating a return to the starting-point of an investigation, experiment, etc, because of failure, lack of progress, etc
on the square
  1. at right angles
  2. on equal terms
  3. informalhonestly and openly
  4. slanga phrase identifying someone as a Freemasonhe is on the square
out of square
  1. not at right angles or not having a right angle
  2. not in order or agreement


being a square in shape
having or forming one or more right angles or being at right angles to something
square or rectangular in sectiona square bar
  1. (prenominal)denoting a measure of area of any shapea circle of four square feet
  2. (immediately postpositive)denoting a square having a specified length on each sidea board four feet square contains 16 square feet
fair and honest (esp in the phrase a square deal)
straight, even, or levela square surface
cricket at right angles to the wicketsquare leg
sport in a straight line across the pitcha square pass
nautical (of the sails of a square-rigger) set at right angles to the keel
informal old-fashioned in views, customs, appearance, etc
stocky or sturdysquare shoulders
(postpositive) having no remaining debts or accounts to be settled
(of a horse's gait) sound, steady, or regular
(prenominal) unequivocal or straightforwarda square contradiction
(postpositive) neat and tidy
maths (of a matrix) having the same number of rows and columns
all square on equal terms; even in score
square peg or square peg in a round hole informal a person or thing that is a misfit, such as an employee in a job for which he is unsuited

verb (mainly tr)

to make into a square or similar shape
maths to raise (a number or quantity) to the second power
to test or adjust for deviation with respect to a right angle, plane surface, etc
(sometimes foll by off) to divide into squares
to position so as to be rectangular, straight, or levelsquare the shoulders
(sometimes foll by up) to settle (debts, accounts, etc)
to level (the score) in a game, etc
(also intr often foll by with) to agree or cause to agreeyour ideas don't square with mine
rowing to turn (an oar) perpendicular to the surface of the water just before commencing a stroke
(in canoeing) to turn (a paddle) perpendicular to the direction of the canoe at the commencement of a strokeCompare feather (def. 15)
to arrange (something), esp by a corrupt method or come to an arrangement with (someone), as by bribery
square the circle to attempt the impossible (in reference to the insoluble problem of constructing a square having exactly the same area as a given circle)


in order to be square
at right angles
sport in a straight line across the pitchpass the ball square
informal squarely
Derived Formssquareness, nounsquarer, nounsquarish, adjective

Word Origin for square

C13: from Old French esquare, from Vulgar Latin exquadra (unattested), from Latin ex 1 + quadrāre to make square; see quadrant
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 square off



c.1300, "tool for measuring right angles," from Old French esquire "a square, squareness," from Vulgar Latin *exquadra, from *exquadrare "to square," from Latin ex- "out" (see ex-) + quadrare "make square, set in order, complete" (see quadrant).

Meaning "rectangular shape or area" is recorded by late 14c.; replaced Old English feower-scyte. Sense of "open space in a town or park" is from 1680s. The mathematical sense of "a number multiplied by itself" is first recorded 1550s.



c.1300, "containing four equal sides and right angles," from square (n.). Meaning "honest, fair," is first attested 1560s; that of "straight, direct" is from 1804. Sense of "old-fashioned" is 1944, U.S. jazz slang, said to be from shape of a conductor's hand gestures in a regular four-beat rhythm. (Square-toes meant nearly the same thing in 1771, from a style of shoes then fallen from fashion.) Squaresville is attested from 1956. Square one "the beginning" is first recorded 1960, probably from board games; square dance first attested 1870.



late 14c.; with reference to accounts, from 1815; see square (n.). Related: Squared; squaring.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for square off




A rectangle having four equal sides.
The product that results when a number or quantity is multiplied by itself. The square of 8, for example, is 64.


Of, being, or using units that express the measure of area.


To multiply a number, quantity, or expression by itself.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for square off


A number multiplied by itself, or raised to the second power. The square of three is nine; the square of nine is eighty-one.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with square off

square off

Take a fighting stance, prepare to fight, as in As they squared off, the teacher came out and stopped them, or The ambassador said the two countries were squaring off. [First half of 1800s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with square

  • square away
  • square deal
  • square meal, a
  • square off
  • square one's shoulders
  • square peg in a round hole
  • square the circle
  • square up
  • square with

also see:

  • back to the drawing board (square one)
  • fair and square
  • on the square
  • round peg in a square hole
  • shoot straight (square)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.