spick-and-span

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Originally from “new as new woodchips”

From spick-and-span-new (literally new as a recently made spike and chip of wood) (1570s), from spick (nail) (variant of spike) + Middle English span-new (very new) (from circa 1300 until 1800s), from Old Norse span-nyr, from spann (chip) (cognate to Old English spón, Modern English spoon, due to old spoons being made of wood) + nyr (new) (cognate to Old English nīwe, Modern English new).[1] Imitation of Dutch spiksplinter nieuw (literally spike-splinter new)[2] , for a freshly built ship. Observe that fresh woodchips are firm and light (if from light wood), but decay and darken rapidly, hence the origin of the term.

Adjective[edit]

spick-and-span (comparative more spick-and-span, superlative most spick-and-span)

  1. (idiomatic) Clean, spotless; original sense “like new”.
    I mopped up the kitchen floor so it was spick-and-span.

Synonyms[edit]

Quotations[edit]

1665
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1614, Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, Act 3 Scene 5 Lines 42-44:
    NIGHTINGALE (showing one of his ballads) Sir this is a spell against 'em, spick and span new, and 'tis made, as 'twere, in mine own person, and I sing it in mine own defense.
  • 1643 John Taylor, A preter-pluperfect, spick and span new nocturnall, or Mercuries weekly night-newes, Wherein the publique Faith is published, and the Banquet of Oxford Mice described (title)
  • 1665, Samuel Pepys, diary, 15 November 1665:
    My Lady Batten walking through the dirty lane with new spicke and span white shoes.

See also[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ spick-and-span” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).
  2. ^ The term "spickspelder nieuwe deuntjes" was used to refer to "brand-new tunes" in a Dutch songbook published in 1630