Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Kibosh

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is kibosh. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Kibosh refers to something that serves as a check or stop. It is usually used in the phrase “put the kibosh on.” 

// The rain put the kibosh on the Fourth of July fireworks display.

KIBOSH in Context

“The state Senate last week put the kibosh on up to $60 million more in aid for school districts.” — Kevin Landrigan, The (Manchester) New Hampshire Sunday News, 24 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

Evidence of kibosh dates the word to only a few years before Charles Dickens used it in an 1836 sketch, but despite kiboshbeing relatively young in English its source is elusive. Claims were once made that it was Yiddish, despite the absence of a plausible Yiddish source. Another hypothesis pointed to Irish caidhp bhais, literally, coif (or cap) of death, explained as headgear a judge put on when pronouncing a death sentence, or as a covering pulled over the face of a corpse when a coffin was closed. But evidence for any metaphorical use of this phrase in Irish is lacking, and kibosh is not recorded in English as spoken in Ireland until decades after Dickens’ use. More recent source theories include a heraldic term for an animal’s head when born with only its face fully showing, and an Arabic word meaning “whip, lash,” but as the note at our etymology explains, no theory has sufficient evidence to back it.

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