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The meaning and origin of the expression: The whole kit and caboodle

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The whole kit and caboodle

Meaning

A collection of things.

Origin

The words kit and caboodle have rather similar meanings.

A kit - is set of objects, as in a toolkit, or what a soldier would put in his kit-bag.

A caboodle (or boodle) - is an archaic term meaning group or collection, usually of people.

There are several phrases similar to the whole kit and caboodle, which is first recorded in that form in 1884. Most of them are of US origin and all the early citations are American. Caboodle was never in common use outside the USA and now has died out everywhere, apart from its use in this phrase.

- The whole kit - the whole of a soldier's necessaries, the contents of his knapsack. From Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1785.

- The whole kit and boodle

Although this citation is slightly later than that of the final 'whole kit and caboodle', it's worth including as it gives a 19th-century version of the meaning of the term. It may still be a step along the way - either unrecorded before 1888 or recorded in an, as yet, undiscovered work. This piece, titled 'The Origin of Boodle', is from The Dunkirk Observer-Journal, New York, September 1888:

"It is probably derived from the Old-English word bottel, a bunch or a bundle, as a bottel of straw. "The whole kit and boodle of them" is a New England expression in common use, and the word in this sense means the whole lot. Latterly, boodle has come to be somewhat synonymous with the word pile, the term in use at the gaming table, and signifying a quantity of money. In the gaming sense, when a man has "lost his boodle", he has lost his pile or whole lot of money, whatever amount he happened to have with him."

- The whole kit and boiling (or bilin')

Sinclair Lewis, in 'Main Street', 1920:

"...and some of these college professors are just about as bad, the whole kit and bilin' of 'em are nothing in God's world but socialism in disguise!"

- The whole (or whool) boodle

From J. Neal's, 'Down-Easters', 1833:

"I know a feller 'twould whip the whool boodle of 'em an' give 'em six."

From Bangor Daily Whig And Courier, Maine, 1839:

"A whole squad have got to permit to see you.
Who are they?
I don't know, a whole boodle of them."

- The whole caboodle

From the Ohio State Journal, 1848:

"The whole caboodle will act upon the recommendation of the Ohio Sun."

Which brings us finally to the whole kit and caboodle

From the Syracuse Sunday Standard, New York, Nov, 1884:

"More audiences have been disappointed by him and by the whole kit-and-caboodle of his rivals."

It is most likely that these phrases were in use simultaneously and that there isn't a clear parentage of one to another. 'Kit and caboodle' had the advantage of the alliterative 'k' sound and that's doubtless why it has outlasted the others, which are now all fallen out of use.

What we can't confirm is that the word caboodle migrated from boodle in order to sound better when matched with kit. It is possible that that's what happened, but the dates of the known citations don't support it. Whole kit and caboodle, (1884) is recorded before whole kit and boodle, (1888) and whole caboodle comes well before both, in 1848. Perhaps that's just the inadequacy or either records or research and that citations with the appropriate dates will emerge later.

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.