Put the kibosh on something

“This could put the kibosh on our plan,” my friend Paul wrote during an instant message conversation. I had never come across this expression and “kibosh” reminded me of “shibboleth”, so I immediately assumed it was of Jewish origin. Wrong!

836, kye-bosk, in slang phrase “put the kibosh on”, of unknown origin, despite intense speculation. Looks Yiddish, but origin in early 19c. English slang seems to argue against this. One candidate is Ir. caip bháis, caipín báis “cap of death,” sometimes said to be the black cap a judge would don when pronouncing a death sentence, but in other sources identified as a gruesome method of execution “employed by Brit. forces against 1798 insurgents” [Bernard Share, “Slanguage, A Dictionary of Irish Slang”].


The French translation could be: Cela pourrait mettre notre plan en l’air.

By | 2009-07-06T14:06:28+00:00 July 6th, 2009|Idioms|2 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Elizabeth July 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Fascinating! I’ll have to take a look at Etymonline. Thanks.

  2. Susanne October 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I came across that word for the first time last year and commented on it on my own blog. Every time I hear a word like that that I hadn’t heard before my linguistic curiosity is switched on and I dive into the history of these words.
    I like your new website format and very useful content. I didn’t know of Etymonline and will add it to my reference list.
    Greetings from a budding new translator in Brighton.

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