cal·​a·​boose ˈka-lə-ˌbüs How to pronounce calaboose (audio)
: jail
especially : a local jail

Did you know?

Calaboose had been part of the English language for almost a century when John S. Farmer included the term in his 1889 book Americanisms—Old & New, defining it as "the common gaol or prison." Farmer also made mention of a verb calaboose, meaning "to imprison," but that term was apparently lost in the years between then and now. Calaboose is Spanish in origin; it's from the Spanish word calabozo, meaning "dungeon."

Examples of calaboose in a Sentence

fittingly, the calaboose in that one-horse town consisted of a single cell
Recent Examples on the Web Heritage Village includes an 1881 two-cell calaboose from Mokena, the 1856 Wells Corner one-room schoolhouse from Homer Glen, the 1863 Greenho farmhouse from Crest Hill, the 1881 Wabash railroad depot from Symerton and a Lockport smokehouse. Jessi Virtusio, Chicago Tribune, 11 May 2022 Lachenais was arrested and secured in the local calaboose, but a vigilance committee descended upon the jail and tore Lachenais out of his cell. Yxta Maya Murray, Longreads, 19 Aug. 2020 Brooks was escorted to the calaboose and thrown into the main holding tank with the other prisoners. Skip Hollandsworth, Esquire, 5 Apr. 2016 All Chenneville had to do was ride up on his horse, remove the smoking gun or bloody knife from the killer's hand, and drag him to the calaboose—the local jail, which was just down the hall from the police department. Skip Hollandsworth, Esquire, 5 Apr. 2016

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'calaboose.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Spanish calabozo dungeon

First Known Use

1792, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of calaboose was in 1792


Dictionary Entries Near calaboose

Cite this Entry

“Calaboose.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

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