call a spade a spade

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spade 1

1. A sturdy digging tool having a thick handle and a heavy, flat blade that can be pressed into the ground with the foot.
2. Any of various similar digging or cutting tools.
tr.v. spad·ed, spad·ing, spades
To dig or cut with a spade.
call a spade a spade
To speak plainly and forthrightly.

[Middle English, from Old English spadu.]

spad′er n.

spade 2

1. Games
a. A black, leaf-shaped figure on certain playing cards.
b. A playing card with this figure.
c. also spades(used with a sing. or pl. verb) The suit of cards represented by this figure.
2. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a black person.
in spades
To a considerable degree: They had financial trouble in spades.

[Italian spade, pl. of spada, card suit, from Latin spatha, sword, broad-bladed stirrer, from Greek spathē, broad blade.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

call a spade a spade

To speak frankly without euphemism.
Dictionary of Unfamiliar Words by Diagram Group Copyright © 2008 by Diagram Visual Information Limited
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References in periodicals archive ?
"They can continue to do so, but I will never change and will always continue to call a spade a spade.
Let's call a spade a spade. "Intelligent design" is nothing more, nor less, than a religious doctrine.
I think you should call a spade a spade in this life, especially in racing, and the Alan Swinbank-trained Art Elegant showed himself to be a complete and utter pig at Wolverhampton - and I'm not talking through my pocket, either.