fair and square


fair and square

Meaning | Synonyms

  • done according to the rules
  • as it should be
  • honestly and legitimately
  • with perfect accuracy
  • no cheating or lying involved

Example Sentences

  1. The supporters for the other team were angry but we won the game fair and square.
  2. We picked the lottery numbers at random and won fairly and squarely.
  3. Steve hit the pheasant fair and square. Smack in the middle of the windscreen.
  4. The opponent punched him fair and square in the chest.
  5. The politicians voted the bill through fairly and squarely last night.


The rhyming phrase fair and square dates back to the 1600s. It is usually used in the context of sporting competitions, races or, some any kind of contest. It would be used specially to combat claims of cheating or dispute. It suggests that the proceedings were honest and all rules were adhered to. She won the race fair and square despite all the setbacks.

Although it is grammatically incorrect in this form, it can be used in business circles to add emphasis that everything is legal, legitimate, and above board. Often it will be used correctly as in the examples above (fairly and squarely) in a more formal setting.

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I believe it stems from ancient Egyptians and the concept that if the perimeter of two sets of land was, for example, 400 steps, then the land would yield the same crops. However, if one strip of land were 150×50 steps, the area would be 750. However, if your land was an equal square of 100 steps, then the area would be 1000 but same perimeter. Proclus 450c suggested that some land owners would use this strategy to make it look as though they were being generous to their neighbours by giving them land with what seemed like a longer perimeter, which gave them a reputation of being fair. When in fact, the opposite is true.

‒ Lee Whittington October 25, 2023

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