Fair and Square – Idiom, Meaning & Origin

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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.

Surely you’ve used the phrase ‘fair and square,’ but did you know the word square has a much more literal meaning behind it? I’ll explain what the phrase really means and show you how to use it correctly in a sentence.

The Phrase’ Fair and Square’ Meaning

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The phrase fair and square is an idiom that means “honest, impartial, and without any sort of trickery.” It suggests that something was done in a straightforward manner, without any cheating or underhanded tactics.

When someone wins a game, and you know they followed all the rules, they won fair and square.

Fair and Square Origin

The phrase “fair and square” is really common; we’ve all used it at least once throughout our lives. It most likely comes from the basic idea of a square, which we all know is a symbol of fairness and impartiality because it has four equal sides.

In many games and contests, playing fields are usually square in shape, or a square board is used to ensure that everyone playing has equal opportunities to win and that the final outcome is determined by skill and luck and definitely not by any unfair advantage.

The earliest known use of the phrase fair and square was in an essay written by Francis Bacon called Of Prophecies, written in 1604: “Faire, and square. The gamester calls fooles holy-day.”

Over time, we’ve seen the expression “fair and square” become widely recognized and used in our English language, and most people understand it to mean something is honest, straightforward, or above board.

What Are the Synonyms of Fair and Square?

  • Honest
  • Straightforward
  • Impartial
  • Above board
  • Clean
  • Even-handed
  • Unbiased
  • Unprejudiced
  • Open
  • Square

Using Fair and Square in a Sentence

  • The game is yours; you won fair and square, so we don’t need to call in the ref.
  • Our deal was fair and square; you can’t back out now.
  • My father has always been a man of his word and always plays fair and square. You’d be lucky to have him on your team.
  • There is no denying that the election was fair and square.
  • My brother won the competition; he won fair and square.
  • I want to make sure that this business deal is fair and square before signing all the paperwork.
  • The rules were followed, and the outcome was fair and square.
  • I want to ensure everyone gets a fair and square chance in this contest.
  • I refuse a rematch because I was declared the winner fair and square.
  • The contest was fair and square, with no cheating or underhanded tactics.

“He has worked in this business for many years, that’s why he got the job, fair and square. “(The Guardian)

That’s Fair and Square

There you go! Now you should have a better idea of what the phrase fair and square really means and how you can use it in everyday conversation and any writing you do.