spade

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a common garden tool, with a wide square blade at the end of a strong handle. it is used for making holes or digging by hand.

Construction

  • A sturdy digging tool having a thick handle and a flat blade that can be pressed into the ground with a foot.

Military

  • noun a simple digging tool consisting of a metal blade attached to a long wooden handle.

Slang

  • noun a black person. The term comes from the expression ‘as black as the ace of spades’ and originated sometime before the 1920s. Spade has almost never been used with racist connotations; it was the word used by white devotees of West Indian culture and music in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, notably in the title of Colin Wilson’s landmark novel, City of Spades, published in 1959.
  • noun a gun, in particular an AK-47 rifle

Origin & History of “spade”

English has two words spade, but they are ultimately related. Spade for digging (OE) comes from a Low German source, which also produced Dutch spade. this went back to, or shared a common source with, Greek spáthē ‘broad blade’, which was borrowed into Latin as spatha ‘broad flat instrument’ (source of the English botanical term spathe (18th c.)). This in turn passed into Italian as spada ‘broad sword’, whose plural spade gave English the playing-card symbol spade (16th c.). The corresponding French term is épée ‘sword’, adopted by English as a fencing term in the 19th century; and its Old French precursor espee is the ultimate source of English spay (15th c.). The diminutive form of Latin spatha was spathula, from which English gets spatula (16th c.).
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