Kibosh origin?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 28 12:51:34 UTC 2010

The case for "kurbash," while plausible, would be stronger if someone could
produce an early 19th C. ex. in a context that could have vectored this
obscure word into pop culture.

On Sat, Aug 28, 2010 at 6:37 AM, Geoffrey S. Nathan <an6993 at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Geoffrey S. Nathan" <an6993 at WAYNE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Kibosh origin?
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> Michael wrote:
> A World Wide Words subscriber suggests that the origin of "kibosh" might
> lie in the Hebrew root "c-b-sh" which she tells me means to subjugate or
> oppress. She notes that the vernacular usage means to end or to stop and
> that it might therefore have been applied by Jews in the sense of the
> early English examples. Would someone versed in Hebrew care to comment?
> and Joel wrote:
> Might not the Hebrew word have been imported from an Arabic or
> Turkish source? I can imagine Jewish captives or slaves being
> subject to the kurbash, and the word becoming associated with subjugation.
> and Steven replied:
> Since no one else responded, I will. I am relatively more familiar with
> ancient Hebrew than with modern Hebrew (though perhaps little was
> newly-composed in the 1830s), and even less with Yiddish. I did read
> everything
> in Anatoly Liberman's bibliography, and considerably more. Unless your
> correspondent
> supplied surprisingly-relevant dated sentences, I suggest the proposal has
> little to commend it, though I'll read more if you send more. And I could
> write
> more about the proposal of M. Davis, long-time London Hebrew teacher,
> should it seem useful.
> I'd have to agree with Steven here about the lack of evidence for a Yiddish
> origin. It does need to be pointed out, however, that there is a Biblical
> Hebrew root /k-b-sh/ meaning 'press down, oppress, crush' with the same
> associated metaphorical extensions as English. It is not borrowed, because,
> according to Klein's Etymological Hebrew Dictionary, it has cognates in most
> of the other Semitic languages.
> But nobody seems to be able to produce a Yiddish use of this root, so the
> 'lash' story seems more credible to me.
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> Faculty Liaison, C&IT
> and Professor, Linguistics Program
> +1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
> +1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)
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