The Grammarphobia Blog

The whole kit and caboodle

Q: Where does “kit and caboodle” come from? Is it from World War I? What is a “caboodle”?

A: The expression, usually appearing as “the whole kit and caboodle,” originated in 19th-century America – well before World War I, according to Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang.

Cassell’s defines the phrase as “the lot, everything there is.” It says “caboodle” is also from the 19th century and means “a large mixed-up collection of objects or people.”

The slang dictionary suggests that “caboodle” may be a combination of the prefix “ker” (which I’ve written about before on the blog) plus the older “boodle,” which meant “a crowd or collection of people or things.”

Two early “kit”-less versions of the expression were “the whole boodle” and “the whole caboodle.” Here are the Oxford English Dictionary‘s first citations for these older versions:

From The Down-Easters, an 1833 novel by John Neal: “I know a feller ‘twould whip the whool boodle of ‘em.”

And from the Ohio State Journal (1848): “The whole caboodle will act upon the recommendation of the Ohio Sun.”

The word “kit,” the OED says, has been used since the late 18th century to mean “a number of things or persons viewed as a whole; a set, lot, collection; esp. in phr. the whole kit.”

From 1785 into the late 1800s, “kit” appeared in such slang phrases as “the whole kit,” “the whole kit and boiling,” “the whole kit and cargo,” “the whole kit and boodle,” and finally the expression that has survived, “the whole kit and caboodle.”

The OED‘s first citation for the final version is from the Boston Globe in 1888: “If any ‘railroad lobbyist’ cast reflections on his character he would wipe out the whole kit and caboodle of them.”

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