to the nines

dressed to the nines
also, * up to the nines

Meaning

  • to perfection
  • looking elegant, smart, or flashy
  • to a high degree
  • to a great extent

Example Sentences

  1. The masked ball was excellent. You should have seen the costumes. Everyone was dressed to the nines.
  2. Go out and buy yourself a new outfit for Friday night. Everyone will be dressed to the nines, so we’d better look smart.
  3. They were all done up to the nines, and there I was in my mother’s old ball gown.
  4. Stella hated getting all done up to the nines. She was much happier in jeans and a jogging top.
  5. They were dolled up to the nines, and all heads turned as they walked in.
  6. Xiaomi gets up to the nines with Redmi smartphones.
  7. In our town, everybody decorates their house to the nines on the eve of Christmas.
  8. After the divorce, she was grieving and stressed to the nines.
  9. The rooms are outfitted to the nines with floor-to-ceiling.
  10. The boats were decorated to the nines, coast along the beach.

Origin

It seems that the expression is originally related to the Nine Worthies or the nine Muses.  The current day informal English idiom dressed to the nines seems to have started out in life as simply to the nines. Meaning ‘to perfection,’ it made its first entry in the Oxford dictionary in this form in the early 1700s and seemed to have come from Scotland, where it was often quoted in poetry.

The earliest written example of the phrase is from the 1719 Epistle to Ramsay by the Scottish poet William Hamilton:

The bonny Lines therein thou sent me,
How to the nines they did content me.

Famous Scottish poet Robert Burns used the phrase:

Though paints auld nature to the nines,
In thy sweet Caledonian lines.

You may also hear done up to the nines or dolled up to the nines.

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T 5 Thoughts

5 Thoughts

Raymond,
I thought the whole nine yards was in reference to machine guns. The length of the bullets “belt” being nine yards long and using the whole thing.
Good to learn a different meaning!
Thanks for sharing.

- Autumn Brown February 4, 2021

Perhaps before the Zero was used in math, the number 9 was mystified by many counting cultures.

- kBurkeP January 26, 2021

Is it related to the “whole nine yards:” An old mariner term referring to letting the sail out fully. Appearently the sails we’re 9 Yards of material.
Old world sailing vs fancy perfection maybe not

- Raymond January 23, 2021

Your information about expressions, cliches and idioms is most valuable to me in my study of the English language. I truly appreciate your gift to the world.
Most sincerely,
zeke abrams

- zeke abrams January 7, 2021

I feel ‘to the nines’ may have originated from the marking system prevailing then. It may mean ‘nine marks out of ten’

- Ramesh Joshi January 4, 2021

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