Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
September 13th, 2016
Episode 646 of 758 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 13, 2016 is: kibosh \KYE-bahsh\ noun : something that serves as a check or stop Examples: Heavy rains put the kibosh on many of the activities scheduled for the day. "Yet every time a new idea takes root, old-guard companies that feel threatened, and politicians and regulators who like to control things, put the kibosh on the upstarts. They don't always succeed." — Steven Greenhut, The Orange County Register (California), 3 July 2016 Did you know? For almost two centuries, kibosh has taxed the ingenuity of 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.