ho·​lus-bo·​lus ˌhō-ləs-ˈbō-ləs How to pronounce holus-bolus (audio)
: all at once
she … put it back, holus-bolus, in her pocketWilkie Collins

Did you know?

The story of holus-bolus is not a hard one to swallow. Holus-bolus originated in English dialect in the mid-19th century and is believed to be a waggish reduplication of the word bolus. Bolus is from the Greek word bōlos, meaning "lump," and has retained that Greek meaning. In English, bolus has additionally come to mean "a large pill," "a mass of chewed food," or "a dose of a drug given intravenously." Considering this "lumpish" history, it's not hard to see how holus-bolus, a word meaning "all at once" or "all in a lump," came about.

Word History


probably reduplication of bolus

First Known Use

1857, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of holus-bolus was in 1857


Dictionary Entries Near holus-bolus

Cite this Entry

“Holus-bolus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/holus-bolus. Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

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