be above board
- straight; without concealment, legitimate; open
- to do something openly
- to not involve any tricks
- to perform something after clarifying
- The company expected the deal to be cleared above board and at the fastest pace possible.
- Don’t try to be tricky dear; we have to make this deal to be above board, totally.
- The deal between the two parties was completely open and above board.
The phrase is speculated to have come from the times when pirates ruled the seas. They would conceal themselves under the deck of the ship which would give a false sense of security to the crew from the (future) victim ship. They would conveniently be hiding “below board”, the board signifying the deck here. So the opposite was considered to be a synonym to being fair and righteous which came to be known as “above board”.
Although the literary origin of ‘above board’ is not readily available, ‘below board’ was used in “In Defence of Judiciall Astrology” in the year 1603 by Sir Christopher Heydon. ‘Below board’ was later evolved in the 17th century to ‘under hand’ which is currently in use and written as a single word.
Another speculation about the phrase ‘above board’ is that it comes from the card games where if the hand was above the playing surface or ’board’ then the player was not using tricks to win and was considered honest.