why we say it

Why We Say It: Kit and Caboodle


With an office in the middle of New York City, we are surrounded by agency team members, clients and neighbors for whom English is not their first language. They are often amused by American idioms and ask about their origins…we often don’t know.

As a branding agency, we are obsessed with words. So when we can’t explain why we say what we say, we get curious. For our fellow inquisitive wordsmiths, we’ll share what we learn in this new series entitled: Why We Say It.

One such phrase that brought a client meeting to a full stop was kit and caboodle. It was said nonchalantly but stopped the show when a perplexed look crossed the face of a native French-speaking meeting attendee. “What does that mean?” he asked.

Damned if any of us knew! Well, we knew what was meant by it; but why we say it, no one could explain.

Let the Googling begin.

We learned that this fun-for-the-tongue phrase probably dates back to the middle of the 19th century and has its origins in the U.S. The phrase seems to have taken a few forms before landing on kit and caboodle.

Apparently, the phrase began as “the whole kit and boodle.” Kit meaning collection and boodle is thought to have derived from the Old-English word for bottel – meaning a bunch or bundle. Researchers believe the phrase morphed to “kit and caboodle” for alliterative purposes.

By the way, what we mean when we say “the whole kit and caboodle” is roughly a big, ol’ collection of things; the whole lot, akin to “everything but the kitchen sink.” Oops, did it again!