Above Board, Above-Board or Aboveboard

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

The shift of some compound words from two to one word proves that language is constantly evolving. One example is above board, above-board, and aboveboard. Find out the correct spelling of the adjective and how to use it properly in a sentence.

Is It Above Board, Above-Board, or Aboveboard?

Above board, above-board, and aboveboard are all alternate spellings of the compound word. The closed compound version becomes more acceptable as a compound word becomes more used.

This evolution may go on for up to 400 years, leaving no consensus on the correct spelling.

Above board Above board Aboveboard Ngram
Above board, aboveboard, and above-board usage trend.

This image shows an Ngram of above board vs. above-board vs. aboveboard. As you can see, the open compound word above board is more common.

The Oxford English Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, and Cambridge Dictionary consider the open compound word above board as the correct spelling.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary accepts the one-word adjective aboveboard.

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries list above-board as the correct spelling.

What Does Above Board Mean?

Grammarist Article Graphic V4 2022 12 21T193915.881

The definition of above board is someone or something open, legal, honest, or beyond reproach. If you are launching a business and it’s above board, it means it’s honest and legal. Your company is not trying to deceive consumers.

Above board can be an adjective or adverb. For example:

  • We are just and above board in our recruiting. (above board as an adjective modifying the pronoun we)
  • The company should move above board if it wants to thrive. (above board as an adverb modifying the verb move)

Some synonyms for above board include:

  • Honest
  • Fair
  • Open
  • Frank
  • Straight
  • Overt
  • Candid
  • Forthright
  • Unconcealed
  • Legit
  • Kosher
  • By the hook
  • Trustworthy
  • Unequivocal
  • Legal
  • Lawful
  • On the up and up
  • Honestly
  • Fairly
  • Upfront
  • Fair and square
  • On the level

Some antonyms include:

  • Dishonest
  • Shady
  • Dishonestly
  • Shadily

What Is the Origin of Above Board?

The phrase is a gaming term that started in the 1600s. The board referred to the table, and an honest player would keep his cards or hands above the board. It serves as proof that he is not cheating.

How to Use Above Board in a Sentence

Here are some examples of above board in a sentence.

  • While the majority of bailiffs act above board, body-worn cameras will make sure those who abuse their powers can be held to account. (Gov UK)
  • Yahya Dahiye who currently works for the current governor as chief of staff told Justice George Dulu that tallying at the constituency tallying centre was above board. (The Star)

Above Board Is the Most Common Phrase

There is no official agreement on the correct spelling of above board, above-board, or aboveboard. But the open compound word above board is more common in English writing. Use it when trying to describe something or someone fair, honest, or legal.

Check out some others we covered:

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