To the nines

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

Origin

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

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:

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

References

  1. ^ Evans, Bergen; Corneli Evans (1957). A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage. Random House. p. 145. 
  2. ^ a b "'Dressed to the nines' comes from old Scottish phrase". Deseret News. April 13, 1997. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/554845/Dressed-to-the-nines-comes-from-old-Scottish-phrase.html. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 

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