Six Ways to Sunday

Six ways to Sunday is apparently an American expression that means ‘in every possible way, with every alternative examined’ or ‘in every possible direction’.

The first meaning can be found in “we checked him out six ways to Sunday before offering him that big loan.” while the second meaning is in “my necklace broke and the beads went six ways to Sunday”.

There are many variants on this phrase involving different numbers of ways ranging from two to a thousand. Some versions use different, both or many instead of numbers, and some replace to with from or for.

6 ways to Sunday

According to The Phrase Finder, the earliest known version of the phrase appeared in the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine in July 1832:

“[The horse] Nullifier, led to the post by a small dry looking man, with a hat that stands nine ways for Sunday, and whose antagonists quake at the sight of that old slouched beaver, as do the Bourbons still at the cocked hat of Napoleon.”

Another example from the same year, which appears in the novel Westward Ho! by James Kirke Paulding goes:

“Look!; they were stitched with a compass that pointed nine ways from Sunday

The ‘six ways to Sunday’ version first appeared in The Chicago Tribune in November 1925.

World Wide Words quotes an earlier sighting of the phrase in Captain Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue from 1785:

“SQUINT-A-PIPES. A squinting man or woman; said to be born in the middle of the week, and looking both ways for Sunday; or born in a hackney coach, and looking out of both windows; fit for a cook, one eye in the pot, and the other up the chimney; looking nine ways at once.”

According to The Free Dictionary, this phrase means ‘Thoroughly or completely; in every possible way; from every conceivable angle.’ and variants include six ways to Sunday, six ways from Sunday, eight ways to Sunday, eight ways from Sunday, forty ways to Sunday and forty ways from Sunday.

Other variants of the phrase on Wiktionary include every way to Sunday, six ways till Sunday, six ways for Sunday, six ways before Sunday, ten ways from Sunday and nine ways to Sunday.

Have you heard this phrase before? Do you use it? Do you know any similar phrases in English or other languages?

3 thoughts on “Six Ways to Sunday

  1. As an American, I can confidently say I’ve never heard this. It may be obsolete and/or regional. Interesting though!

  2. I do occasionally use this expression, and it usually comes out “six ways from Sunday”. It seems to be related to another phrase, “every which way you can” and “every which way but loose”.

    I would enumerate even more of these phrases, but they’d be coming out of my mouth every which way, and you’d be so sick of hearing them that you’d be making excuses like six ways from Sunday just to get away from them all.

    Cheers, Simon :-))

  3. As a 70ish New Yorker, I’m familiar with this expression from my youth, as “six ways to Sunday.” The “six ways” element seems to imply that one can get to Sunday from each of the other weekdays; in other words, all possibilities (within the week) remain open. Of course, this explanation that could be completely off base, and, as you point out, the older expression seems to refer to “nine ways.”

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