kit and caboodle

Kit and caboodle is everything, the entire of collection of things under consideration. But it’s an odd-sounding phrase to the modern ear. Kit doesn’t seem to make much sense here and what the heck is a caboodle?

The word kit is from the Middle Dutch kitte, a wooden vessel made of hooped staves. This original sense of kit remained current in English at least through the 19th century. It appears in English as early as 1375 in Barbour’s The Bruce:

Thai strak his hed of, and syne it Thai haf gert salt in-till a kyt And send it in-till Ingland.

The earliest known use to mean a collection of items is from 1785 in Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, which glosses kit as:

The kit is likewise the whole of a soldier’s necessities, the contents of his knapsack: and is used also to express the whole of different commodities; as, Here, take the whole kit, i.e. take all.

Caboodle is a variant of boodle, which means a number of items or people. It comes from the Dutch boedel, meaning estate, inheritance, or possessions. The term in the original Dutch sense was introduced into American English as early as 1699 as this citation from that year in Lederer’s Colonial American English attests:

Elisabeth had the Boedel of Jan Verbeck, desceased [sic], in hands.

By the early 19th century, boodle was being used in the phrase the whole boodle to signify everything, the entire collection of something. The Journal of American Folklore records this usage from 1827:

He...turnd out the hol boodle ov um.

The form caboodle appears as early as 1848 in this citation from the Wisconsin Democrat, 16 December of that year from a Whig candidate who lost a supposedly safe seat in an election:

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.

The combined form appears by at least 1861, when the following is recorded in Theodore Winthrop’s John Brent:

I motioned we shove the hul kit an boodle of the gamblers ashore on logs. ‘Twas kerried.

And by 5 February 1888 the Boston Globe was reporting:

If any “railroad lobbyist” cast reflections on his character he would wipe out the whole kit and caboodle of them.

So kit and caboodle is a redundancy. Both elements of the phrase mean roughly the same thing. Such redundancies are common in English.

(Source: Historical Dictionary of American Slang; Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition; Newspaperarchive.com)

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