Shovel vs. Spade

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Shovel and Spade is that the Shovel is a tool for digging, lifting, and moving bulk materials and Spade is a tool for digging.

  • Shovel

    A shovel is a tool for digging, lifting, and moving bulk materials, such as soil, coal, gravel, snow, sand, or ore.

    Most shovels are hand tools consisting of a broad blade fixed to a medium-length handle. Shovel blades are usually made of sheet steel or hard plastics and are very strong. Shovel handles are usually made of wood (especially specific varieties such as ash or maple) or glass-reinforced plastic (fibreglass).

    Hand shovel blades made of sheet steel usually have a folded seam or hem at the back to make a socket for the handle. This fold also commonly provides extra rigidity to the blade. The handles are usually riveted in place. A T-piece is commonly fitted to the end of the handle to aid grip and control where the shovel is designed for moving soil and heavy materials. These designs can all be easily mass-produced.

    The term shovel also applies to larger excavating machines called power shovels, which serve the same purpose—digging, lifting, and moving material. Modern power shovels descend from steam shovels. Loaders and excavators (such as backhoes) perform similar work, etically speaking, but are not classified as shovels emically.

    Hand shovels have been adapted for many different tasks and environments. They can be optimized for a single task or designed as cross-over or compromise multitaskers. It’s very useful in agriculture. Examples are given under “Types”.

  • Spade

    A spade is a tool primarily for digging, comprising a blade – typically narrower and less curved than that of a shovel – and a long handle. Early spades were made of riven wood or of animal bones (often shoulder blades). After the art of metalworking was developed, spades were made with sharper tips of metal. Before the introduction of metal spades manual labor was less efficient at moving earth, with picks being required to break up the soil in addition to a spade for moving the dirt. With a metal tip, a spade can both break and move the earth in most situations, increasing efficiency.

  • Shovel (noun)

    A hand tool with a handle, used for moving portions of material such as earth, snow, and grain from one place to another, with some forms also used for digging. Not to be confused with a spade, which is designed solely for small-scale digging and incidental tasks such as chopping of small roots.

  • Shovel (noun)

    A spade.

  • Shovel (verb)

    To move materials with a shovel.

    “The workers were shovelling gravel and tarmac into the pothole in the road.”

    “After the blizzard, we shoveled the driveway for the next two days.”

    “I don’t mind shoveling, but using a pickaxe hurts my back terribly.”

  • Shovel (verb)

    To move with a shoveling motion.

  • Spade (noun)

    A garden tool with a handle and a flat blade for digging. Not to be confused with a shovel which is used for moving earth or other materials.

  • Spade (noun)

    A playing card marked with the symbol ♠.

    “I’ve got only one spade in my hand.”

  • Spade (noun)

    A black person.

  • Spade (noun)

    A cutting instrument used in flensing a whale.

  • Spade (noun)

    A hart or stag three years old.

  • Spade (noun)

    A castrated man or animal.

  • Spade (verb)

    To turn over soil with a spade to loosen the ground for planting.


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