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What Does "All Square" Mean?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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The English idiomatic phrase “all square” is generally used in reference to numerous parties who are engaged in the same activity, or that have a stake in the same enterprise; it essentially means that all parties are equal and that no one party has an advantage. This phrase can be used for nearly any business or personal relationship between parties, whether it’s between individuals or groups. This phrase has also come to be used more abstractly, in similar ways as the simple interjectory word “OK.”

In modern usage, people might use the phrase “all square” not just to talk about a party’s advantage, but to confirm or ask about whether an issue or problem has been resolved to the satisfaction of all. For example, a customer who’s talking about cost with a supplier or vendor might say that the two are “all square”, or ask if the final agreement is “all square.” They are asking if there is a final consensus, and if all issues have been addressed and worked out between parties.

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The idiom “all square” is often used in a similar way as another very similar phrase “squared away.” People who are using the term “squared away” are also talking about whether an issue has been completely resolved, or if a project has been planned or set up completely. Those who are involved in engineering or other projects frequently talk about getting a project squared away. The phrase “all square” can also be substituted in this kind of situation.

In some recreational activities, such as golf, people also use the term “all square". This can refer to a situation where multiple players have the same score or are tied. Here, there is a literal application of the idea that no one player has an advantage over the others.

It’s important to note that using “all square” for the general purposes of consensus is something that is only done in some dialects of English. Other speakers might favor the use of phases like “okay”, or “all set”, or even just “good,” as well as more flowery ones like “kopasetic”, all of which can have the same effect, either in a question or a statement. Those who are living in various parts of America, the United Kingdom or other English speaking countries may or may not hear this phrase used commonly.

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