Jeremy Butterfield Editorial

Making words work for you

Putting The Kibosh On Cassidy


An interesting investigation into an idiom that has been claimed to be Irish. The OED (1901) notes ‘origin obscure: It has been stated to be Yiddish or Anglo-Hebraic’.


In Daniel Cassidy’s worthless book of fake etymology, he claimed that the word kibosh or kybosh is of Irish origin. Cassidy was certainly not the first to claim this and his sole authority for saying it was a website called Cork Slang Online. The usual claim in relation to its supposed Irish origin is that it comes from caidhp bháis or caidhp an bháis or caip bháis, meaning a cap or cape of death. Some sources also mention cie báis, but cie is not a possible word in Irish orthography.

While caidhp bháis is given as the name of a fungus in Irish dictionaries (the death cap), there is no evidence that this is an ancient expression and it may have been composed on the pattern of the English phrase death cap in the 20th century.

There are various explanations for the meaning of caidhp bháis as…

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Author: Jeremy Butterfield

Editor of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Writer, wordsmith, copywriter, copy-editor and lover of words. I provide editing, web copywriting, and marketing copywriting services in the Central Belt of Scotland, including Stirling, Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounding areas, as well as throughout the UK. You can find me on Twitter @JezzB2.

5 thoughts on “Putting The Kibosh On Cassidy

  1. Hi Jeremy, I have just published another account of the Irish links to kybosh based on information in the Irish News Archives. In 1909, someone in the Freeman’s Journal claimed that a scholar called Lloyd had published the claim that kybosh came from an Irish phrase meaning ‘cap of death’. A couple of days later, Lloyd wrote to the paper to say that this was bunkum and that that wasn’t what he said at all! However, for decades after that, the fake version has resurfaced on a regular basis in the Irish press. Bizarre! 🙂


    • Thanks, John. I shall check it out with interest. Kindest regards, J. :-).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it demonstrates quite clearly that the “cap of death” theory is just a piece of fakery that’s gone viral. Hope all is well with you! 🙂


      • As you say, and demonstrate in the blog piece, John, an early example of a proto-meme – and one coming from a most obscure source. I’m nursing a broken metatarsal, now on the mend, fortunately, otherwise all good. I hope all’s well with you. :-). PS: I couldn’t help noticing that in the last para but two, beginning ‘He goes on to say’ there’s a verb missing in the second sentence. [That’s déformation professionelle at work, ;-)]

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, in Irish, our equivalent of ‘a rainy day’ is lá na coise tinne, the day of the sore foot, so I hope you had something appropriate saved up for it, such as a couple of good books or a bottle of something expensive and French. Many thanks for the heads up on the missing verb. I have corrected it now. What a pity you don’t speak Irish – I could do with a proofreader there as well! 🙂


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