Neat as a pin

Neat as a pin is an idiom with several interesting possible sources of origin. We will examine the meaning of the idiom neat as a pin, where it may have come from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Neat as a pin means tidy, free of dirt, orderly. The phrase neat as a pin may also be rendered as neat as a new pin, which is somewhat more common in British English. The idiom neat as a pin may have come to us from at least two different sources. First, the word neat was derived from the Middle French word net, which means clear or bright. This would account for the comparison between something clean and a bright, shiny pin. The second possible influence on the development of the idiom neat as a pin is an older common saying that was popular during the 1600s: “As fine as fippence, as neat as nine pence.” It is easy to see how the idiom could have evolved from “neat as nine pence” to neat as a pin. The idiom neat as a pin first came into use in the very late 1700s.

Examples

Even the garden is neat as a pin, with a brick patio and an enviably smooth lawn with stepping stones down to a wooden potting shed, all lined with shrubs and flowers. (The Independent)

They escaped the summer heat of their neat as a pin row houses, by ambling through the sylvan wooded lanes of Britannia and Woodlands Parks.  (The Hamilton Spectator)

They are well cared for – pruned, neat as a new pin.  (The Irish Times)

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