dressed to kill/to the nines

Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!

dressed to kill

Very well-dressed and fashionable, typically in an attempt to impress other people. I have to be dressed to kill at this event tonight—a lot of important people will be there.
See also: dress, kill, to

dressed to the nines

Very well-dressed and fashionable, typically for a formal event. I have to be dressed to the nines at this gala tonight—a lot of important people will be there. The whole family will be dressed to the nines at the wedding, I'll make sure of it.
See also: dress, nine, to
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

dressed to kill/to the nines

Very fashionably attired. The first expression is a nineteenth-century Americanism. It appears in print in E. G. Paige’s Dow’s Patent Sermons, ca. 1849 (“A gentleman tiptoeing along Broadway, with a lady wiggle-waggling by his side, and both dressed to kill”). The precise analogy is no longer known. “Kill” may allude to the idea of making a conquest, or perhaps it is an extension of something “done to death”—that is, overdone. Dressed to the nines, also put as dressed up to the nines, is British in origin and literally means elaborately dressed to perfection. The “nines” were singled out to signify “superlative” in numerous other contexts from the late eighteenth century on, but no one is quite sure why. Some say it is because nine, as the highest single-digit number, symbolizes the best. Today, however, it is the numeral ten that signifies the best (as, for example, in Olympics judging). Other writers suggest that nines is a corruption of “to then eyne”—that is, to the eyes—but this interpretation doesn’t make much sense either. Describing an old department store holding its final sale before closing and lavishly decorated for Christmas, Mary Cantwell observed that “the corpse was dressed to the nines” (New York Times, Dec. 1989).
See also: dress, kill, nine, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
See also: