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Where Did the Phrase 'To a T' Come From?

‘To a T’ is usually expressed as part of a larger phrase, such as “It suits him to a T” or “It fitted her to a T”, but where did the phrase come from?

This is a phrase that has a foggy beginning, so we might never know for certain how and where it came into use. However, it is very likely that the phase is actually written ‘to a T’, with T being the letter. It is sometimes written as “tee” or “tea”, but this is most likely a simple misspelling.

This could have significance because there is an old English saying that has the same meaning, “to a tittle“. This phrase was first mentioned in the early 1600’s, so it has been around for a long time. Obviously, the word ‘tittle’ does start with T. So what is a tittle?

A tittle is a small point. In the lower case “i”, the dot above the vertical line is a tittle. There is also a tittle above the lower case “j”. In fact, the tittle is perfectly matched to these lower case letters to distinguish them from uppercase letters.

Indeed, you might say that the tiny point fits the lower case I and J to a T.

Shucks, you might not only know where “to a T” comes from, you also know what a title is now! No extra charge, the service is free. It fits this post to a T.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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3 Comments

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  1. An interesting story about the origins of that term. I know one of Spanish saying when someone is talking gibberish the person would say translated from Spanish “I did not understand Jay what you are saying?”
    The person who speak gibberish would then reply to the offended character “None of the words that I said start with the letter J”.

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