from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A sturdy digging tool having a thick handle and a heavy, flat blade that can be pressed into the ground with the foot.
  • noun Any of various similar digging or cutting tools.
  • transitive verb To dig or cut with a spade.
  • idiom (call a spade a spade) To speak plainly and forthrightly.
  • noun A black, leaf-shaped figure on certain playing cards.
  • noun A playing card with this figure.
  • noun The suit of cards represented by this figure.
  • noun Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a black person.
  • idiom (in spades) To a considerable degree.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To dig or cut with a spade; dig up (the ground) by menns of a spade.
  • In whaling, to use the boat-spade on, as a whale; cut the tendons of the flukes of; hamstring.
  • noun A playing-card of one of the two black suits of a pack, the other being clubs.
  • noun A tool for digging and cutting the ground, having a rather thick iron blade, usually flat, so formed that its terminal edge (either straight or curved) may be pressed into the ground or other resisting substance with one foot, and a handle, usually with a crosspiece at the top, to be grasped by both hands.
  • noun A tool of soft iron used with diamond-powder by cameo-cutters in finishing.
  • noun In whaling, a large chisel-like implement used on blubber or bone in cutting-in. See phrases following.
  • noun In herpetology, a formation on the foot of some toads with which they dig. See spade-fool.
  • noun In artillery, a thick metal projection at the end of the trail of a field-gun carriage, which is forced into the ground by the recoil and tends to keep the carriage in the same position for subsequent rounds.
  • noun An emasculated person; a eunuch.
  • noun An emasculated animal; a gelding.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Zoöl.) A hart or stag three years old.
  • noun A castrated man or beast.
  • transitive verb To dig with a spade; to pare off the sward of, as land, with a spade.
  • noun An implement for digging or cutting the ground, consisting usually of an oblong and nearly rectangular blade of iron, with a handle like that of a shovel.
  • noun One of that suit of cards each of which bears one or more figures resembling a spade.
  • noun A cutting instrument used in flensing a whale.
  • noun a bayonet with a broad blade which may be used digging; -- called also trowel bayonet.
  • noun (Mach.) the forked end of a connecting rod in which a pin is held at both ends. See Illust. of Knuckle joint, under Knuckle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A garden tool with a handle and a flat blade for digging. Not to be confused with a shovel which is used for moving earth or other materials.
  • noun A playing card marked with the symbol .
  • noun offensive, ethnic slur A black person.
  • verb To turn over soil with a spade to loosen the ground for planting.
  • verb To collect and statistically analyze data, for the purpose of determining the underlying random number generator structure or numeric formula.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a sturdy hand shovel that can be pushed into the earth with the foot
  • noun (ethnic slur) extremely offensive name for a Black person
  • noun a playing card in the major suit that has one or more black figures on it
  • verb dig (up) with a spade


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English spadu.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Italian spade, pl. of spada, card suit, from Latin spatha, sword, broad-bladed stirrer, from Greek spathē, broad blade.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English spadu, spada, from Proto-Germanic. Cognate with Old Frisian spada, Old Saxon spado, German Spaten. Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *sph₂-dʰ-, whence also Ancient Greek σπάθη (spathē, "blade"), Hittite išpatar ("spear").


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  • "Call a spade a spade."

    January 26, 2008

  • I wonder if spades ever get tired of being called that. Do you think some dream of being called a trowel?

    January 27, 2008

  • I should think they might dream of being a heart, or even a diamond.

    March 2, 2008