AskDefine | Define spade

Dictionary Definition



1 a playing card in the major suit of spades
2 a sturdy hand shovel that can be pushed into the earth with the foot
3 (ethnic slur) offensive name for a Black person; "only a Black can call another Black a nigga" [syn: nigger, nigga, coon, jigaboo, nigra] v : dig (up) with a spade; "I spade compost into the flower beds"

User Contributed Dictionary



From spadu, spada, of Germanic origin. Cognate with Old Frisian spada, Old Saxon spado, German Spaten. Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *spə-dh-, whence also Greek σπάθη (spáthē) ‘blade’, Hittite išpatar ‘spear’.



  1. 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.
  2. One of the black suits in a deck of cards, represented by a symbol similar to the garden tool, or .
  3. A black person.

Related terms


a garden tool with a handle and a flat blade for digging
one of the black suits in a deck of cards
a black person



  1. Plural of spada.



  1. spade (tool).



  1. spade (tool).

Extensive Definition

A spade is a tool designed primarily for the purpose of digging or removing earth. The first spades were made of graven wood. After the art of metalworking was discovered, spades were made with sharper tips of metal. Before the advent of metal spades manual labor was more inefficient at moving earth, with picks being required to break up the soil in addition to a spade for moving the dirt. With a metal tip, a spade can both break and move the earth in most situations, increasing efficiency.


English spade is from Old English (f.) or (m.). The same word is found in Old Frisian and Old Saxon . High German only appears in Early Modern German, probably loaned from Low German. Scandinavian forms are in turn loaned from German. The term may thus not originate in Common Germanic and appears to be a North Sea Germanic innovation or loaned. Closely related is Greek , whence Latin .

Designs of spades

Spades are made in many shapes and sizes, for a variety of different functions and jobs. There are many different designs used in spade manufacturing. The most common spade is a garden spade, which typically has a long handle, is wide, and is treaded (has rests for the feet to drive the spade into the ground). An Irish spade is similar to a common garden spade, with the same general design, although it has a much thinner head. A turfing iron has a short, round head, and it used for cutting and parring off turf. A digging fork, or grape, is forked much like a pitchfork, and is useful for loosening ground and gardening.

Digging tool

In gardening, a spade is a hand tool used to dig or loosen ground, or to break up clumps in the soil. Together with the fork it forms one of the chief implements wielded by the hand in agriculture and horticulture. It is sometimes considered a type of shovel. Its typical shape is a broad flat blade with a sharp lower edge, straight or curved. The upper edge on either side of the handle affords space for the user's foot, which drives it into the ground. The wooden handle ends in a cross-piece, sometimes T-shaped and sometimes forming a kind of loop for the hand.
Small and/or plastic toy versions of the same tool are used to dig sand castles on a beach or in a sand-box.

Other use

In the oil and chemical process industries, a spade is a round piece of metal with a small tab that is placed in between two pipe flanges to give positive isolation from the central atom; usually to prevent cross contamination between fluids or to allow work on the line. The name comes from the shape: a little like a garden spade. The small tab lets one see that the spade is in place. At Peterhouse, Cambridge, the expression "to hit spade" is used to mean "to chat up".

Sources and references

spade in Czech: Rýč
spade in Danish: Spade
spade in German: Spaten
spade in Esperanto: Ŝpato
spade in Spanish: pala
spade in French: Bêche
spade in Italian: Vanga
spade in Dutch: Spade
spade in Dutch Low Saxon: Schuppe
spade in Russian: Лопата
spade in Japanese: 鋤
spade in Norwegian: Spade
spade in Simple English: Spade

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

American Indian, Amerind, Australian aborigine, Bushman, Caucasian, Indian, Malayan, Mister Charley, Mongolian, Negrillo, Negrito, Negro, Oriental, Red Indian, WASP, ace, backset, bail, best bower, black, black man, blackfellow, bore, bower, boy, brown man, bucket, burrhead, burrow, cards, clubs, colored person, coon, cultivate, culture, cup, cut, darky, decant, deck, delve, deuce, diamonds, dig, dig out, dike, dip, dish, dish out, dish up, dredge, dress, drill, drive, dummy, excavate, face cards, fallow, fertilize, flush, force, fork, full house, furrow, gook, gouge, gouge out, groove, grub, hand, harrow, hearts, hoe, honky, jack, jigaboo, joker, jungle bunny, king, knave, ladle, left bower, list, lower, mine, mulch, nigger, niggra, ofay, pack, pair, paleface, picture cards, playing cards, plow, pour, prune, pygmy, quarry, queen, rake, red man, redskin, round, royal flush, rubber, ruff, sap, scoop, scoop out, scrabble, scrape, scratch, shovel, singleton, sink, slant-eye, spades, spoon, straight, the Man, thin, thin out, till, till the soil, trench, trey, trick, trough, trump, tunnel, weed, weed out, white, white man, whitey, work, yellow man
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