spit and polish

Idioms & Phrases

spit and polish

Close attention to appearance and order, as in With a little spit and polish this house will sell very quickly. This expression originated in the military, presumably alluding to literally shining up something with the aid of a little saliva. There it also came to mean "too much attention to appearance, and not enough to more important concerns," as in The commander is so concerned with spit and polish that he overlooks the crew's morale. [Late 1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Explore Dictionary.com
Next Definition: spit up
Words Near: spit and polish
More from Thesaurus.com
Synonyms and Antonyms for spit and polish
More from Reference.com
Search for articles containing spit and polish
More from Dictionary.com Translator
Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Dictionary.com presents 366 FAQs, incorporating some of the frequently asked questions from the past with newer queries.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature