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A spade is a tool designed primarily for the purpose of digging or removing earth and spreading the soil. Early spades were made of riven wood. After the art of metalworking was discovered, spades were made with sharper tips of metal. Before the introduction of metal spades manual labor was less efficient at moving earth, with picks being required to break up the soil in addition to a spade for moving the dirt. With a metal tip, a spade can both break and move the earth in most situations, increasing efficiency.
English spade is from Old English spadu, spædu (f.) or spada (m.). The same word is found in Old Frisian spade and Old Saxon spado. High German spaten only appears in Early Modern German, probably loaned from Low German. Scandinavian forms are in turn loaned from German. The term may thus not originate in Common Germanic and appears to be a North Sea Germanic innovation or loaned. Closely related is Greek σπαθη, whence Latin spatha.
Designs of spades
Spades are made in many shapes and sizes, for a variety of different functions and jobs, and there are many different designs used in spade manufacturing. The term shovel is sometimes used interchangeably with spade, but shovels generally are broad-bottomed and better suited for moving loose materials, whereas spades tend to have a flat bottom edge for use as a digging tool.
The most common spade is a garden spade, which typically has a long handle, is wide, and is treaded (has rests for the feet to drive the spade into the ground). An Irish spade is similar to a common garden spade, with the same general design, although it has a much thinner head. A sharpshooter is a narrow spade. A turfing iron has a short, round head, and is used for cutting and paring off turf. A digging fork, or grape, is forked much like a pitchfork, and is useful for loosening ground and gardening. There can also be toy spades for children.
Loy ploughing was a form of manual ploughing carried out in Ireland using a form of spade called a loy. It took place on very small farms or on very hilly ground, where horses couldn't work or where farmers couldn't afford them. It was used up until the 1960s on poorer land. This suited the moist climate of Ireland as the trenches formed by turning in the sods providing drainage. It also allowed the growing of potatoes on mountain slopes where no other cultivation could take place.
In gardening, a spade is a hand tool used to dig or loosen ground, or to break up lumps in the soil. Together with the fork it forms one of the chief implements wielded by the hand in agriculture and horticulture. It is sometimes considered a type of shovel. Its typical shape is a broad flat blade with a sharp lower edge, straight or curved. The upper edge on either side of the handle affords space for the user's foot, which drives it into the ground. The wooden handle ends in a cross-piece, sometimes T-shaped and sometimes forming a kind of loop for the hand.
A small, narrow one-hand shovel for gardening is called a transplanter.
Other uses of the term
- In the oil and chemical process industries, a spade is a round piece of metal with a small tab that is placed in between two pipe flanges to give positive isolation from the centre; usually to prevent cross contamination between fluids or to allow work on the line. The name comes from the shape: a little like a garden spade. The small tab lets one see that the spade is in place.
- In kitchenware, certain ice cream scoops are called spades due to the shape. These scoops are used more in making hand-scooped milkshakes or desserts where a lot of ice cream can be scooped at once and the typical "ball" shape of scooped ice cream (i.e., scoops on a cone) is not needed. The spade-shaped head also helps scrape off the ice cream stuck to the sides of the cartons.
- In typography, the spade is a symbol (♠) stylized from the idea of the tool. It is used as one of the suits of playing cards.
- A 'spade' may also refer to a derogatory term for black African Americans, commonly used in the post-Civil War era.
Sources and references
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Etymology OnLine
- Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) definition of spade
- Paul Hughes (2011-03-03). "Castlepollard venue to host Westmeath ploughing finals". Westmeath Examiner. Retrieved 01/06/2011.
- "The plough and the stars". The Tribune. 27/09/09. Retrieved 01/06/2011.