trying to find out where "dressed to the nines" originated
Originally Posted by shaanah
'Dressed to the nines' indicates an individual is dressed stylishly. The origin is unknown but references to the idiom can be traced back to the early to mid 1850's.
Dressed flamboyantly or smartly.
I found the next explanation with the help of my old computer:
dressed to the nines = elaborately attired, as in:
"For the opening of the restaurant she was dressed to kill" or "At the opera everyone was dressed to the nines".
The first of these hyperbolic expressions dates from the early 1800s and uses kill in the sense of "to a great or impressive degree". The phrase "to the nines" in the sense of "superlative" dates from the late 1700s and its original has been lost, but the most likely theory is that it alludes to the fact that "nine" the highest single digit numeral, stands for "best".
Happy Holidays to you all.
I live in Scotland, home of Robbie Burns the poet, and the phrase is first recorded in in one of his poems.
That was in reference to one’s dress, but before that, there are literary references to "praising a man's farm to the nines” and such, because the phrase, 'to the nines', or 'to the nine', was used to indicate ‘perfection’ or ‘to the highest standard’.
But why is 'nine' perfection? and yet we speak of being only "in seventh Heaven", as if seventh Heaven is perfection, bliss.
Thank you for your compliment. Unfortunately I am still in a stage of "child acquisition of English language". I couldn't take great merit to myself if there should be an apparent progress in English language. It is worth noting that my computer and the present forum with all teaches , redactors and moderators as well as you NES' have rendered great service to.
Thank you again for your gratuitous backing.
Here is a very useful answer from phrases.org:
Here are three theories from the archives:
"dressed to the nines means dressed in a very elaborate fashion. One of the great word sleuths of all time, Walter Wilson Skeat, thought that the expression originally must have been 'dressed to the eyes.' The way it might have appeared in Old English would have been: 'To the eyne.' It's very easy to see how that could have been transformed into 'to the nines.'" From the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (second edition, copyright 1977, 1988. HarperCollins).
"Dressed to the nines" is a shipping term from back when ships had 3 masts each with 3 primary yards. Usually not all in use - hence "the whole nine yards". Therefore, on very formal occasions or to celebrate a victory the ship would be in full sail or "dressed to the nines". For more info see yacht-volant.org/sailortalk/seaterms01.html
"TWO IDEAS,CUFF LINKS WERE CALLED" NINES",AND MANY FANCY DRESS SHIRTS HAVE NINE BUTTONS.
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