The Whole Nine YardsThe phrase "The Whole Nine Yards" has very mysterious origins.  There are many plausible explanations to its origins, but no true reference to its actual origins can be found. The meaning of "the whole nine yards" is "completely, the whole, everything".

Some of the more reasonable suggestions to the origin of the "the whole nine yards":

  • yardage in American football (ten yards needed for a first down)
  • amount of cloth needed for a kilt, burial shroud, or three-piece suit
  • length of some pieces of World War II military equipment (bomb rack or ammunition belt)
  • capacity of a ready-made cement truck
  • other types of "yards": properties on a city block, naval shipyards, yardarms on a sailing ship.
  • The amount of dirt required for a large burial plot;

The earliest identified use of the exact phrase is credited to Admiral Emory Scott Land in 1942. He used the term the whole nine yards when referring to the nine ship yards that build the Liberty Ships.

It seems the most frequently quoted is from World War II, where it is suggested that to "go the full nine yards" was to fire an entire aircraft machine-gun ammunition belt, nine yards long. But out of the thousands of books and newspapers written during the war, there is no reference to the phrase.

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The phrase "The Whole Nine Yards" seems to be shrouded in mystery as to its origins.


Most commonly quoted weird fact for the phrase "The Whole Nine Yards" is:

"The term "the whole 9 yards" came from WWII fighter pilots in the Pacific.When arming their airplanes on the ground, the .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet, before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, it got "the whole 9 yards.""

This fact is unverifiable.


0 #8 katie 2011-12-20 03:40
It is a ww2 term the amo belt was 9 yards and the pilots said that meaning they were going to give them the whole 9 yards of amo
0 #7 Monkbar 2011-12-02 13:37
Actually all these are guesses. The phrase doesn't appear in print until 1962 and therfore cannot be verified that any of these are true.
0 #6 Jaime 2011-09-01 07:32
Actually it is from a WWII term. When the pilots would say "give it the whole nine yards" IT menat to empty out the whole belt on the enemy!
0 #5 Don 2011-08-13 03:18
The Whole Nine Yards refers to a bolt of cloth.
0 #4 pdjr 2011-08-01 18:10
actually the whole 9 yards refers to a cement mixer. a standard cement mixer holds approximently 9 cubic yards of cement thus a job that required the use of all the cement required the whole 9 yards
0 #3 FattassUK 2011-07-02 09:33
I always thought it was referring to the fact that tailors used 9 yards of cloth to make high quality suits. This is where the phrase 'Dressed to the Nines' comes from, but I thought the 'Whole Nine Yards' had the same source.
0 #2 rob 2011-06-25 14:46
the whole nine yards was a reference to clearance on the erie canal. there were 9 yards from bridge crossing bottom to the surface of the water, when asked how does the clearance look, "you've got the whole 9 yards."
0 #1 dr irsh 2011-05-05 07:18
the whole nine yards refers to the making of a kilt, which contains 9 yards of material and could take up to a year to weave

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