Posted by James Briggs on August 30, 2004
The following appeared in today's edition of The Times. They contained more details than I knew and I thought they were worth posting.
" The word kybosh, or kibosh, has been used throughout much of the English-speaking world for at least 150 years. Possibly the first printed examples of "putting the kybosh on it" are in Charles Dickens's Sketches by Boz. There are also several American written examples from the 1880s. There are suggestions that it originates from the Yiddish word kabas or kabbasten, meaning to suppress or stop. Other possibilities are from the heraldic word caboshed - the emblem of an animal which is shown full face but cut off close to the ears so that no neck shows. Webster's New World Dictionary suggests it may derive from the old German word "kiebe", meaning carrion.
The most likely explanation, however, is that by the Irish poet Padric Colum, who theorised that it comes from the Gaelic "cie bias" meaning "cap of death", the mask worn by the executioner at the block or the black cap ofthe judge when delivering the death sentence. The words are pronounced "ky bosh".
Stanley Blenkinsop, Macclesfield
The term is from the Irish term for the death cap as worn by a British judge, thus meaning a stop or ending. Dickens in 1836 uses the form "kye-bosk", which suggests that he heard it as two words and so supports an Irish origin. The word was popularised in the First World War song: Belgium Put the Kybosh on the Kaiser.
Patrick Martin, Winchester, Hampshire"