noun (1)
\ ˈspād How to pronounce spade (audio) \

Definition of spade

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a digging implement adapted for being pushed into the ground with the foot
2 : a spade-shaped instrument


spaded; spading

Definition of spade (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

: to dig up or out or shape with or as if with a spade

intransitive verb

: to use a spade


noun (2)

Definition of spade (Entry 3 of 3)

1a : a black figure that resembles a stylized spearhead on each playing card of one of the four suits also : a card marked with this figure
b spades plural in form but singular or plural in construction : the suit comprising cards marked with spades
2 offensive used as an insulting and contemptuous term for a black person
in spades
: to an unusually great degree : in the extreme

Other Words from spade

Noun (1)

spadeful \ ˈspād-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce spadeful (audio) \ noun


spader noun

First Known Use of spade

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1647, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Noun (2)

circa 1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for spade

Noun (1)

Middle English, going back to Old English spadu, spædu, spade (plural spadan), going back to Germanic *spaðōn- (whence also Old Saxon spado "digging implement, spade," Old Frisian spada, early Modern German Spaten, Icelandic spaði), akin to Greek spáthē "any of various blade-like implements or objects," both going back to Indo-European *sph2-dh-, perhaps a suffixed derivative of the verbal base *speh2- "draw, pull out" — more at spasm

Note: Hittite išpann-, išpatar "spit, skewer" has also been compared, though according to Jaan Puhvel the stem would reflect *speh2-tr- rather than *speh2-dhr- (see Hittite Etymological Dictionary, vol. 1/2, pp. 450-51). Probably also relevant are Sanskrit sphya- "shoulder blade," Khotanese phvai "spade, shovel," perhaps reflecting *sph2-i-o- (for further Indo-Iranian forms see Manfred Mayrhofer, Kurzgefasstes etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindischen, 3. Band, p. 547; H.W. Bailey, Dictionary of Khotan Saka, Cambridge, 1979, p. 264).


verbal derivative of spade entry 1

Noun (2)

Italian spada or Spanish espada broadsword; both from Latin spatha, from Greek spathē blade

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about spade

Time Traveler for spade

Time Traveler

The first known use of spade was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for spade

Cite this Entry

“Spade.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for spade


\ ˈspād How to pronounce spade (audio) \

Kids Definition of spade

: a digging tool with a long handle that has a flat blade which can be pushed into the ground with the foot

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on spade

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spade

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with spade

Spanish Central: Translation of spade

Nglish: Translation of spade for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spade for Arabic Speakers

Comments on spade

What made you want to look up spade? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!