to a T

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See also: toat, toát, tòat, and töat


Alternative forms[edit]


The origins of this phrase are uncertain, but it has been observed in print since at least 1693,[1] and likely was around well before that. The possibly related phrase to a tittle is found in a 1607 play, The Woman Hater by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher ("I'll quote him to a tittle"). The T in the phrase to a T is likely the first letter of a word, with tittle being the most likely source.

  • Other theories with little evidence point to golf tees, for their small size; this may have at least influenced the alternative form to a tee. Some speculate a relationship with T-square, a measuring device introduced around the turn of the century. Others claim the expression refers to the correct completion of the letter t by crossing it.
  • In print from "Two Years Before the Mast" published in 1840, and, even then, using quotes, refers to the practice of squaring up a yardarm with a mast on a sailing ship such that it made a perpendicular T.


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Prepositional phrase[edit]

to a T

  1. (idiomatic) Precisely; exactly; perfectly; with great attention to detail.
    The announcement of the political endorsement was timed to a T.
    • 1759–1767, [Laurence Sterne], The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, volumes (please specify |volume=I to IX), London: [] T. Becket and P. A. Dehondt, []:
      I hope your Honour will be soon well enough to get down to your country-seat, where,—as your Honour takes so much pleasure in fortification, we could manage this matter to a T.
    • 1766, George Colman, David Garrick, The Clandestine Marriage, a Comedy. [], London: [] T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, []; R[oberts] Baldwin, []; R. Davis, []; and T[homas] Davies, [], →OCLC, Act III, scene ii, page 49:
      My ſpurrit to a T—My dear child!
    • 1868, Ann Sophia Stephens, Doubly False:
      That accounts for my having the dress, but it don't account for the piece that you left sticking to the rose-bush under Mrs. Lander's bed-room winder, which piece I took off that morning, and which piece I matched with the dress after you pitched it at me over them bannisters; it was an awful scragly tear, and it fitted to a T.
    • 1964, "On the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man!" (page 7), Tales to Astonish #57, Marvel Comics:
      You've sure got everything figured out to a "T", boss!
    • 1979, “Rapper’s Delight”, performed by Sugarhill Gang:
      You see I'm six foot one and I'm tons of fun and I dress to a tee