Call a spade a spade


      • Speak honestly and directly about a situation or issue
        To use frank and straightforward language, without any sugarcoating or euphemisms, to describe something that may be unpleasant or controversial.

      • Recognize and acknowledge the truth or reality of a situation
        To not shy away from confronting the facts or admitting to the true nature of something, even if it may be uncomfortable or difficult to accept.

      • Identify something by its true name or label
        To call something by its correct and specific name, rather than using a general or vague term. This often implies a direct and unapologetic approach to communication.

    Examples of Call a spade a spade

    • Instead of beating around the bush and using euphemisms, it's better to be straightforward and call a situation or person by their true name or nature.

      This idiom urges us to avoid using indirect or polite language and instead speak plainly and honestly. The phrase "call a spade a spade" literally means to refer to a shovel by its proper name, rather than using a more polite or indirect term like "digger" or "groundskeeper's implement." In a figurative sense, it encourages us to speak honestly and directly about people, situations, or problems, rather than using euphemisms or circumlocutions to avoid offending others or being blunt. By using this idiom, we can communicate more clearly and effectively, even if it may not always be easy or comfortable to do so.


    This idiom is often used to emphasize the importance of being honest and direct in communication. It encourages people to not hide behind euphemisms or vague language, but to speak the truth and address issues head on. It can also be seen as a way to promote authenticity and integrity in one's words and actions.

    Origin of "Call a spade a spade"

    The origin of this idiom can be traced back to ancient Greece. It is believed to have originated from the writings of the Greek philosopher Plutarch, who used the phrase "to call a fig a fig, and a spade a spade" to encourage people to speak plainly and not hide behind false pretenses.

    In the 16th century, the phrase was translated into English by the scholar Erasmus as "to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough." However, it wasn't until the 19th century that the phrase evolved into its current form, "to call a spade a spade". This version was popularized by the English writer and poet, William Cowper, in his poem "The Task" published in 1785.

    Today, the idiom is commonly used in everyday language to emphasize the importance of being direct and straightforward. It has also been used in various literary works and has become a well-known expression in many English-speaking countries.