What Does the Expression “Spick and Span” Mean and How Did the Phrase Originate?

Today, Spick and Span is a trade name for a well-known cleaner.

But the expression began in the fourteenth century as the nautical term “spick and span new,” to describe a freshly built or refurbished ship.

A spick was a spike, while span was a Viking reference to new wood, but also means any distance between two extremities, such as the bow and stern of a ship.

The wooden ship was so clean that even the spikes looked new.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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