‘the whole caboodle’: meaning and origin



The American-English phrase the whole caboodle means the whole group or set of people, animals or things.—Synonyms: the whole boodle and the whole box and dice.




First recorded in the 19th century, and found only in this phrase, the noun caboodle has occurred in various forms, such as kaboodle, keboodle and kerboodle.

The origin of the whole caboodle is unknown. Three theories have been put forward:

1-: The first theory is that the whole caboodle is an extended form of the whole boodle, the second part of caboodle being boodle, and the first part being an emphatic prefix represented by ca-, ke- and ker-.

2-: The second theory is that the whole caboodle is a blend of two synonymous English expressions: the whole kit 1 and the whole boodle. This is believed to have led to the whole kit and boodle 2, which, in turn, pronounced sloppily, is thought to have led to the whole caboodle. The form the whole kit-caboodle could also suggest this origin.

3-: The third theory is that the whole caboodle is derived from the Dutch expression de hele kit en boedel, meaning the entire house and everything in it. Here, the Dutch noun kit means home, dwelling. (Likewise, the whole boodle corresponds to modern Dutch de hele boel, earlier and dialectal de hele boedel.)

1 The phrase the whole kit is first recorded in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (London: S. Hooper, 1785), by the English antiquary and lexicographer Francis Grose (1731-1791):

Kit, a dancing master, so called from his kit, or cittern, (a small fiddle) which dancing masters always carry about with them, to play to their scholars; the kit, is likewise the whole of a soldier’s necessaries, the content of his knap-sack, and is used also to express the whole of different commodities; here take the whole kit, i.e. take all.

2 The earliest occurrence of the whole kit and boodle that I have found is from the account of a debate on “the bill to authorize any citizen to become an auctioneer”, which took place at the New York Senate—account published in the Albany Argus (Albany, New York) of Tuesday 30th January 1838:

He appealed to the mover of this bill to say if the very description of men whom he wished to exclude from the business of auctioneering, could not come in through the door he proposed to open, and participate in this vocation? If there were men left of this description, whom the Executive had not hunted out for appointment—whether this bill was not a license to the veriest rogue and to the whole kit and boodle of them, to take up the business?




These are the earliest occurrences of the phrase the whole caboodle that I have found, in chronological order:

1-: From the account of the trial in Lockport, Niagara County, New York, of Alexander Stewart, “a lawyer from Niagara, Captain in Her Majesty’s Militia, and has been during the past winter, the secret Agent of the Canadian Government”—account by James Mackenzie, published in Mackenzie’s Gazette (Rochester, New York) of Saturday 20th April 1839:

(Prisoner—Bob! I’ll tell you the whole caboodle of the scrape! I am willing to act as a witness. I don’t care a damn! Put me as a witness if you like.)

2-: From the Ohio State Journal (Columbus, Ohio) of Monday 10th April 1848:

They may go even farther than this, and recommend, to the electors of Hamilton county to disregard so much of the law as constitutes two election districts of Hamilton county. Having done this, Medary will be looking out for a job—Olds will be often in Fairfield, cozening for a nomination to Congress—and the whole caboodle will act upon the recommendation of the Ohio Sun, and endeavor to secure a triumph in the old fashion-way.

3– From the Wisconsin Democrat (Madison, Wisconsin) of Saturday 16th December 1848:

Our friend Goodhue, of the Lancaster Herald, was the regular whig candidate for Judge of Probate in the whig county of Grant, at the recent election; but by some strange fatality, it was found on counting the votes that another fellow had the majority. Such an unlooked for casualty must have been annoying, but we supposed the good-natured man would have had more philosophy than to rave in such a strain as the following:
“It is no use to be a “Son,” it’s no use to be a whig, it’s no use to be nothin’.—I’ll cut the whole caboodle.”

4-: From the Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio) of Wednesday 31st July 1850:

It is even true that the Journal announces that Mr. Clay is advocating a “locofoco measure,” (the Journal says it!) but perhaps that is the reason he made an “unusually able speech,” and brought into life the “consummate ability” of Mr. Webster! We think from the signs and confessions, the whole caboodle of whiggery would turn “locofoco,” for the offices, and their patronage!

5-: From the Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) of Wednesday 12th March 1851:

Confusion Confounded.

If “order is heaven’s first law,” there is very little of heaven under the “order” of this Administration. Every thing seems out of joint. The President elected by the people is dead, and an accidental Administration reigns in his stead. The Cabinet called to aid the People’s President have been turned loose upon the country, and a new dynasty installed. No body in power feels directly responsible to the people, and the government is carried on very much on the principle of “each one for himself and the d—l for us all.” Galphins swarm about the capitol, and government gormandizers are quartered in every department of the People’s Treasury. The Nation is reported one hundred millions in debt, and the mails wont [sic] go. The whigs, having repudiated one set of political leaders, the overthrown Cabinet, now distrust their successors, and the people are heart-sick of the whole caboodle. Less than two years remain for this confused order of things to reign, and this all the consolation we can gain.

6-: From The Unfortunate Thief, a short story by James Stephenson, published in the Dollar Weekly Times (Cincinnati, Ohio) of Thursday 20th April 1854:

‘Like thunder you’ll stand to a feller to the last pinch! The next time I go apple-hookin’, I’ll leave you all at home and take my grand-mammy along, if she isn’t too religious to go, for she’s a better man as the whole caboodle of you.’

7-: From the Buffalo Morning Express (Buffalo, New York) of Saturday 23rd September 1854:

A fashionable lady in Buffalo once said to a friend:
“My new house, directing, is to be sublimated and splendiferous. There is to be a Porto Rico in front, a Pizarro in the rear, and a lemonade all around it. The water is to come in at the side of the house in an anecdote, the lawn is to be degraded, and some large trees are to be supplanted in the critic in the rear.—Various Exchanges.
We have no wish to shield the ignorance of fashion, when it is made manifest, but this is a little too bad. The above Partington-ism originated with the eccentric Dr. Valentine, and it is too bad to cut him out of his business, as well as laurels, for the sake of a drive at Buffalo aristocracy. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves—the whole “kaboodle” of you.

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