call a spade a spade

call a spade a spade


  • This phrase means to say something the way it is.
  • To not dress the truth up and speak in a straight forward manner.
  • It is used when the description of something is given in an honest manner.

Example Sentences

  1. That dress made her look fat, let’s call a spade a spade before she goes out wearing it and embarrasses herself.
  2. He failed the exam twice. If you were to call a spade a spade then you would not push him to give it again.
  3. Parents are often reluctant to see any faults in their children. It is always better to call a spade a spade rather than spoiling the children with this behaviour.

The phrase is said to have originated from the slang that was used for Negros, which is ‘spade’. This was used in a derogatory manner in the United States and was popular in the early 20th century.

The first known publication of this term precisely is from John Trapp’s work in 1647 where he claims that God’s people would call a spade a spade and a niggard a niggard. The term niggard here does not necessarily refer to Negros but could be an indication of the misers at the time.

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