ki·​bosh | \ ˈkī-ˌbäsh How to pronounce kibosh (audio) , kī-ˈbäsh How to pronounce kibosh (audio) , ki-ˈbäsh \

Definition of kibosh

: something that serves as a check or stop usually used in the phrase put the kibosh onInevitably, though, another recession will come putting the kibosh on job and income growth …— Joseph Spiers

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Other Words from kibosh

kibosh transitive verb

The Mysterious Origins of Kibosh

Kibosh has been a part of our language for almost two centuries, but its origin baffles etymologists. It was prominent enough in lower-class London speech to attract the attention of Charles Dickens, who used it in 1836 in an early sketch, but little else is certain. Claims were once made that it was Yiddish, despite the absence of a plausible Yiddish source. Another hypothesis points to Gaelic caidhp bháis—pronounced similarly to, and meaning, "coif 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 as spoken in Ireland until decades after Dickens' use.

Examples of kibosh in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Between 2009-2012, before the NFL put the kibosh on such things, the Falcons busted out their original red helmet-black jersey look. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, "Opinion: If NFL helmet rule change does come into effect, bring back these 10 throwback looks," 27 Mar. 2020 But Hamilton County Republican chairman Alex Triantafilou put the kibosh on that Monday. Carl Weiser,, "Local Republican party to 'Republican' group fighting county bus tax: Get off our steps," 24 Feb. 2020 After a series of biking accidents that fractured Durham’s pelvis, broke his hand and knocked out his front teeth, Barbara put the kibosh on any triathlon plans. Cheryl Hall, Dallas News, "After facing down death, Steve Durham renews his passion for life, Horatio Alger," 5 Jan. 2020 In my experience, Midol puts the kibosh to my headaches, malaise, and puffiness like no other cure. Carla Lalli Music, Bon Appétit, "My Favorite Hangover Cure Is Disguised as a Drug for PMS," 27 Dec. 2019 Governor Gavin Newsom put the kibosh on other non-ARRA high-speed rail projects in the state earlier this year. Natasha Frost, Quartz, "A decade ago, the US was promised high-speed rail—so where is it?," 27 Dec. 2019 Since joining Greylock in April 2018, Reiser has been quietly building Abnormal Security, a startup that aims to put the kibosh on the very hacker tactics that nearly got the better of its investor. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "How an Ex-Twitter Adman Plans to Squash Business Email Compromise, One of Tech’s Most Pernicious Threats," 19 Nov. 2019 Patterson and Hackel have put the kibosh on other plans and voters have defeated measures too. Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, "Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland county leaders seek regional transit expansion, Macomb sits out," 18 Nov. 2019 These journalists wonder if someone in the chain of command put the kibosh on Farrow's reporting for unethical reasons. Brian Stelter, CNN, "NBC staffers harbor doubts about network's leadership over handling of Weinstein, Lauer cases," 27 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'kibosh.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of kibosh

1830, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for kibosh

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."

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The first known use of kibosh was in 1830

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Last Updated

30 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Kibosh.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.

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