ki·​bosh ˈkī-ˌbäsh How to pronounce kibosh (audio) kī-ˈbäsh How to pronounce kibosh (audio)
: something that serves as a check or stop
usually used in the phrase put the kibosh on
Inevitably, though, another recession will come putting the kibosh on job and income growth …Joseph Spiers
kibosh transitive verb

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The Mysterious Origins of Kibosh

Evidence of kibosh dates the word to only a few years before Charles Dickens used it in an 1836 sketch, but despite kibosh being 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.

Examples of kibosh in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Then, as Newsom approached the entrance, Chinese police again tried to put on the kibosh. Laurel Rosenhall, Los Angeles Times, 26 Oct. 2023 Technically, the land was zoned for agriculture, but a landfill would’ve been allowed — until the county board of supervisors amended the zoning to put a kibosh on the whole thing. Eric Boodman, STAT, 18 Apr. 2023 Would a forgery confirmation be a malicious attempt at undermining a Holocaust case, or an essential kibosh on a painting that would have been found to be fake eventually? Alexandra Bregman, Forbes, 31 Dec. 2022 And while Shanghai is great for Ethereum, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ongoing crypto crackdown might put the kibosh on what early investors can do with their unstaked ETH. Robert Stevens, Fortune Crypto, 8 Apr. 2023 Weather canceled my first attempt to bus to the mountain with my three-year-old and a stomach bug put the kibosh on my second. oregonlive, 5 Apr. 2023 Wisely, per The Athletic, then told his parents to put the kibosh on plans to travel to New York and see his debut. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 31 Mar. 2023 That is when Apple put the kibosh on it. Ariel Shapiro, The Verge, 13 Jan. 2023 Biden’s declaration puts the final kibosh on various wind farms that have been proposed for the area. Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar. 2023

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

Word History


of obscure origin

Note: A number of etymologies are summarized by Anatoly Liberman in online postings to the OUPblog maintained by Oxford University Press ("Unable to put the kibosh on a hard word," May 19, 2010; "Monthly gleanings," July 28, 2010; "Three recent theories of 'kibosh'," August 14, 2013; "Etymology gleanings," November 29, 2017). The recent theories to which he alludes see the following as sources for kibosh: the heraldic term caboched, caboshed "(of an animal's head) borne full-face without the neck showing"; kibosh as a term for an iron bar used by clogmakers in the north of England (apparently first attested in 1860); Arabic kurbāj, kirbāj "whip, lash" and its source, Turkish kırbaç. The latter hypothesis is argued at length in a monograph by Gerald Cohen, Stephen Goranson and Matthew Little, Origin of Kibosh (Routledge, 2017), which also summarizes recently found antedatings to citations of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary (dating the word with certainty to 1834, and perhaps to 1830). Pace the authors' enthusiasm, the Arabic/Turkish origin is questionable: if Charles Dickens' 1835 recording of the word as "kye-bosh" accurately reflects the vowel and accent of the first syllable (according with the current pronunciation), the phonetic gap between the source and the English word is difficult to bridge; and the authors suggest no mechanism by which an assumed loanword from the eastern Mediterranean could have found its way into the speech of lower London social strata. Liberman may well be correct that "with the present evidence at our disposal, the chance of unearthing the origin of kibosh is vanishingly small."

First Known Use

1830, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of kibosh was in 1830


Dictionary Entries Near kibosh

Cite this Entry

“Kibosh.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ki·​bosh ˈkī-ˌbäsh How to pronounce kibosh (audio)
: end entry 1 sense 2a, stop
used in the phrase put the kibosh on

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