spade

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do the spadework

To do the necessary preparatory work or research to successfully complete a given task or objective. Likened to working the soil with a spade when preparing to plant something. If you are looking to start your own business, you have to be sure to do the spadework first. I was up all night doing the spadework for my first case as a lawyer.

(as) black as the ace of spades

Completely black; totally without light or color. ("Spades" is a black suit in a deck of cards.) The basement gives me the creeps, it's as black as the ace of spades down there!
See also: ace, black, of, spade

call a spade a spade

To address or describe the true nature of someone or something, even if it is unpleasant. The term originated from a translation of an ancient Greek phrase, but is considered offensive by some due to the later use of the word "spade" as a racial slur. I know you like Jason, but he's a jerk! I'm sorry, but I have to call a spade a spade. You have to call a spade a spade and acknowledge the corruption built into this system!
See also: call, spade

(as) cocky as the king of spades

Conceited or haughty. Don't invite Joe to lunch unless you want to hear him brag about all the important things he's doing in his new job. He's just as cocky as the king of spades lately.
See also: cocky, king, of, spade

*black as a skillet

 and *black as a stack of black cats; *black as a sweep; *black as coal; *black as night; *black as pitch; *black as the ace of spades
completely dark or black. (*Also: as ~.) I don't want to go down to the cellar. It's as black as a skillet down there. Her hair was black as a stack of black cats. After playing in the mud all morning, the children were as black as night. The stranger's clothes were all black as pitch.
See also: black, skillet

call a spade a spade

Fig. to call something by its right name; to speak frankly about something, even if it is unpleasant. (Considered offensive by some. Use only with discretion.) Well, I believe it's time to call a spade a spade. We are just avoiding the issue. Let's call a spade a spade. The man is a liar.
See also: call, spade

*cocky as the king of spades

boastful; overly proud. (*Also: as ~.) He'd challenge anyone to a fight. He's as cocky as the king of spades. She strutted in, cocky as the king of spades.
See also: cocky, king, of, spade

in spades

in the best or most extreme way possible; extravagantly. He flunked the test in spades. He succeeded at life in spades—honors degree, great career, rich wife, lovely children, and early retirement.
See also: spade

spade something up

to turn over the soil in a garden plot with a spade. Please go out and spade the garden up so I can plant the potatoes and onions. I will spade up the garden when I have time.
See also: spade, up

call a spade a spade

Speak frankly and bluntly, be explicit, as in You can always trust Mary to call a spade a spade. This term comes from a Greek saying, call a bowl a bowl, that was mistranslated into Latin by Erasmus and came into English in the 1500s. Also see tell it like it is.
See also: call, spade

do the spadework

Make the preliminary preparations or do the preliminary research for something. For example, The department head did all the spadework for this agreement. This expression transfers the heavy spading required to prepare for planting to other kinds of preparation. [c. 1900]

in spades

Considerably, in the extreme; also, without restraint. For example, They were having money problems, in spades, or Jan told him what he really thought of him, in spades. This expression alludes to spades as the highest-ranking suit in various card games, such as bridge, and transfers "highest" to other extremes. [Colloquial; 1920s]
See also: spade

call a spade a spade

If you call a spade a spade, you speak honestly and directly about a subject even if it offends people. In the meantime, Whyte is emerging as an outspoken voice who is willing to call a spade a spade. I'm not at all secretive, and I'm pretty good at calling a spade a spade. Note: You can also say that someone calls a spade a shovel when they speak extremely honestly and directly. He is never afraid to call a spade a shovel — and that is why he has universal respect in the game. Note: In a play by the Ancient Greek dramatist Menander, one of the characters says `I call a fig a fig, and a spade a spade'.
See also: call, spade

in spades

COMMON
1. If you have something in spades, you have a lot of it. The job required determination and ambition — and she had both qualities in spades.
2. If something happens in spades, it happens to a great degree. All this effort has paid off in spades.
See also: spade

in spades

mod. in the best way possible; extravagantly. He flunked the test in spades.
See also: spade

call a spade a spade

To speak plainly and forthrightly.
See also: call, spade

in spades

To a considerable degree: They had financial trouble in spades.
See also: spade