We had a death in the family this weekend, so I haven't had the time to spend on this... We've the funeral next weekend, so hopefully we can get squared away before Friday...

Looking it up at tfd.com, I am confused about the meaning. Two meanings seem to match:

  • To bring (oneself) into a better position or relation (He tried to square himself with his parents.)

  • To put away or in order

But since the person has directly written 'squared away', so I think the second one matches better.

6 Answers 6


You can get "squared away", and it means getting yourself in order. In this case, it probably means getting your life back in order after the emotional and logistical upheaval of a funeral. The meaning here has nothing to do with the "square oneself with" usage of the word.

A quick ngrams search turns up, for example:

The bill had not passed and we did not know what was going to happen and we did not get squared away until July 11,

And I was alone at the time, trying to get squared away.

  • You are right, but I don't think in this case it means getting your life back in order after funeral. Because, if you re-read the sentence, funeral has not happened till now, its going to happen on next weekend. So, probably, he is talking about the document(the task), I sent to him to be squared away(completed) before friday(before next weekend).
    – teenup
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 13:31
  • In that case, then, he probably should have said that he would get it (whatever he owes you) squared away. But it still sounds to me like there was some upset associated with the death itself, making arrangements, etc. Maybe a bit of a mix of the two.
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 13:42
  • It seems, you are right indeed, if he wanted to say about the document getting reviewed, he would have said in a normal phrase as usual.
    – teenup
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 15:10
  • Given the preceding context ("...haven't had the time to spend on this"), I think it's obvious whatever "this" referred to (which must surely be known to the recipient) is what the writer hopes to have sorted out by Friday. I don't think any "rule of grammar" requires the writer to repeat "this" (or any syntactic equivalent, such as "it"). Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 15:35
  • See Also: Origin of Squared Away
    – eyoung100
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 20:28

You should be looking up the phrasal verb - to square away, instead of just to square. Quite often a phrasal verb's meaning differs wildly from the verb that forms part of it.

To square away simply means to finish or to complete. I am not aware of another idiomatic meaning associated with it.


In this case it means sorted out. I assume that, after the death, people are extremely unhappy and they hope to be stable before the weekend.


Squared away comes from old sailing ships. When they were docked in harbour for inspection, all the cross-members (from which the sails were hung) were placed exactly square with the line of the ship. This is a position in which the ship would never sail and is purely to make it look smart for inspection.

  • I suspected as much, since so many terms we use today comes from old English navy terms. I am a little shocked that not a single other answer even touched on that. Son of a gun. Three square meals. Pulling your leg, and hundreds more come from the old British Navy.
    – user149737
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 13:36

Squared away is also military slang for someone who is a good "troop" or whose performance is even with or above the satisfactory level.

  • Possibly from how a good recruit does his bunk with "hospital corners" that are squared off. If he did it right he was "squared away" Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 16:08

My Chief when I was a Battalion Surgeon in the Navy (serving with the Marines, of course) asked all of our Corpsmen at the Battalion Aid Station in garrison to "square away" their workspaces/desks because the Battalion Commander was going to stop by for a visit (not a formal inspection). He demonstrated what he meant by arranging the various randomly stacked and oriented papers, pencil holders, staplers, etc., on the Lead Petty Officer's desk into stacks that were each oriented at right angles to the perimeter of the rectangular desk and to each other and neatly stacked. He did not move, remove, or consolidate any of the objects but by simply "squaring away" what was there the desk instantly looked neat and, well, "squared away"

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