Above board, above-board or aboveboard

Above board, above-board and aboveboard are alternate versions of a compound word in transition. A compound word is a word derived from two separate words joined together. We will examine the definition of the terms above board, above-board and aboveboard, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Above board describes someone or something that is honest, open, legal or beyond reproach. The word above board began as a gaming term in the early 1600s. The board in this expression refers to a table. When playing a card game, an honest player would keep his hands and his cards above board, or on top of the table, to prove that he was not cheating. While the Oxford English Dictionary lists the spelling of above board as two separate words, but this open compound word is increasingly found as a hyphenated compound word as in above-board, or a closed compound word as  in aboveboard. This happens when a compound word is evolving and there is no consensus on the spelling, an interesting state for a word to be in, four hundred years after its first known use.


It should be noted that these shell companies and trusts are all perfectly legal, and often entirely above board. (The Washington Post)

You see, McElwain wasn’t simply asked to leave for being a below-average coach; he was asked to leave for not being an above-board coach. (The St. Augustine Record)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday reassured the public that the conduct of evaluation and reevaluation of contraceptives, including those covered by a Supreme Court (SC) order, “is aboveboard and transparent.” (The Philippine Canadian Inquirer)

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