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). Imitation of Dutch spiksplinter nieuw (literally “spike-splinter new”), 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.
- (idiomatic) Clean, spotless; original sense “like new”.
- I mopped up the kitchen floor so it was spick-and-span.
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- 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 Thesaurus:clean