Where does the term “Brand new” come from and What does span-new mean?

This concept of absolute, perfect newness is very old in itself, dating back past medieval English to the Old Norse, in which its form was span-nyr, from spann, “a chip,” plus nyr, “new.”

The allusion is to the newness of a chip freshly cut by the woodsman’s ax.

Variants such as spang-new, spanking new, etc., are merely inventive expansions giving additional emphasis, as is the longer term spick-and-span-new.

In this last, spick is identical to spike, and the allusion is to a spike just off the blacksmith’s forge.

The later extension of spick-and-span to imply neatness or cleanliness, of course, is with reference to the appearance of newness.

Brand-new (bran-new) refers to the newness of something, such as pottery, perhaps, fresh from the fire (brands), and this has led to the sometimes-heard bran-span-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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