above board 0

above board: meaning and explanation

If something is above board then it is honest, fair, and not attempting to hide anything or cheat anyone. e.g. Most banks operate above board, but it is still important to be careful when taking out a loan.

If you say that everything is above board then you are saying that everything is done in an honest, open way, and nothing is hidden.

Imagine you are checking whether a service, business or website is honest before making a large purchase – if you are satisfied, you could use this idiom. e.g. We’ve had a close look and as far as we can see everything seems to be above board.

A useful way to get a clearer understanding of idioms, and also to make it easier to memorise them, is to research their origins. These are often quite interesting and memorable, and can help to make the meaning of the idiom more concrete and logical. The origin of above board is poker and other card games. If you are playing above board, then you are holding your cards above the table – you are not hiding them under the table. This means that no one will suspect you of cheating or playing dishonestly.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: England (RP)

If you at our you’ll is .
If you a look at our accounts you’ll see that is above .

…If you take a look at our accounts…

to take a look at something is an alternative (and slightly more informal) synonym for to look at something or to have a look at something. It is often used when inviting someone to look at or inspect something. e.g. Can you take a look at my phone and see if you can fix it?

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • In your country, is business generally done ‘above board’ or do people try to conceal things?
  • Can you remember a time when you thought everything seemed to be above board, and it turned out that you were wrong?
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