phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|

Spic(k) and span

Posted by Bruce Kahl on January 18, 2001

In Reply to: Spic(k) and span posted by Bruce Kahl on January 18, 2001

: : Spick and span means 'clean and tidy', per the archives.. anyone know where it came from?? thanks!
: : Vinnie

: Main Entry: spick-and-span
: Variant(s): or spic-and-span /"spik-&n(d)-'span, "spik-&[ng]-/
: Function: adjective
: Etymology: short for spick-and-span-new, from obsolete English spick spike + English and + span-new brand-new
: Date: 1665
: 2 : spotlessly clean

"Spic and Span," sometimes spelled "spick and span" is a bit of obselete Victorian English. In this case, the "spick" was a variation of spelling on "spike." In those days, any iron nail was called a spike. "Span" meant "new."
Iron fastenings were a valuable commodity back then, so there was nothing quite as pretty to a homeowner or shipwright as a brand new, shiny nail. Hence, any thing that appears to sparkle like new has been called "spick and span"