Say Your Piece (or Hold Your Peace)

When two editors started arguing about whether the correct phrase is "say your piece" or "say your peace," we had to investigate!

Samantha Enslen, Writing for
4-minute read
Episode #618

A woman saying her piece

Today we’re going to talk about the right word to use in a common expression: “to say your piece.”

This came up recently in the workplace of our guest writer Samantha Enslen.

Sam assures us that she never fights with her coworkers. But one day she was having a teeny disagreement with her colleague Magi via chat. Sam stated her point; Magi stated hers. Then, Magi wrote “I’ve said my peace.” P-E-A-C-E.

Sam chatted back, “I think you mean ‘I’ve said my PIECE.’” P-I-E-C-E.

Now the fight was really on.

What’s interesting, Sam discovered, is that both women were thinking of real sayings. There are two expressions—one uses “peace” with an “ea,” and the other uses “piece” with an “ie.” But their meanings are very different. 

Speak Your Piece

The first expression is to “speak one’s piece" or “to say one’s piece”—spelled P-I-E-C-E. This means to say what you think and then announce that you’ve done so. 

For example, if you were arguing with a friend over the merits of Star Trek versus Star Wars, you might explain your point and then say, “I’ve said my piece.” In other words, you’ve said everything you have to say on the subject. Now it’s up to your friend to make her own decision.

This word “piece” in this expression alludes to a memorized poem or speech, the kind you might have made in elementary school. It first appeared in print in the early 1800s. 

This phrase calls to mind the expression to “give someone a piece of your mind,” but the two are unrelated. The latter one dates back to the 1500s, and the “piece” here simply means a “portion.” Note that the portion of the mind in this phrase is always negative. You only give someone “a piece of your mind” when you’re angry and ready to share some fierce criticism.   


About the Author

Samantha Enslen, Writing for Grammar Girl

Samantha Enslen is an award-winning writer who has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. She runs Dragonfly Editorial, an agency that provides copywriting, editing, and design for scientific, medical, technical, and corporate materials. Sam is the vice president of ACES, The Society for Editing, and is the managing editor of Tracking Changes, ACES' quarterly journal.

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