To the nines

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"To the nine" is an English idiom meaning "to perfection" or "to the highest degree" or to dress "buoyantly and high class". In modern English usage, the phrase most commonly appears as "dressed to the nine" or "dressed up to the nine".[1][2]

Origin[edit]

The phrase is said to be Scots in origin.[2] The earliest written example of the phrase is from the 1719 Epistle to Ramsay by the Scottish poet William Hamilton:[3]

The bonny Lines therein thou sent me,
How to the nines they did content me.

Robert Burns' "Poem on Pastoral Poetry", published posthumously in 1800, also uses the phrase:[citation needed]

Thou paints auld nature to the nines,
In thy sweet Caledonian lines.

The phrase may have originally been associated with the Nine Worthies or the nine Muses. A poem from a 17th century collection of works by John Rawlet contains the following lines:[3]

The learned tribe whose works the World do bless,
Finish those works in some recess;
Both the Philosopher and Divine,
And Poets most who still make their address
In private to the Nine.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Evans, Bergen; Corneli Evans (1957). A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage. Random House. p. 145. 
  2. ^ a b "'Dressed to the nine' comes from old Scottish phrase". Deseret News. April 13, 1997. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "'Dressed to the nines' - the meaning and origin of this phrase". Phrasefinder. Retrieved 12 April 2018.