‘The Whole Nine Yards’: Definition, Meaning and Examples

By Shanea Patterson, updated on April 10, 2023

‘The whole nine yards’ is an American idiom, but what does it really mean? Below, we’ll take a look at the definition and origin, plus you’ll learn how to use the phrase in a sentence correctly.

In short:

  • ‘The whole nine yards’ means everything you can possibly want, have, or do in a particular situation.

Essentially, it means everything or a whole lot of something.

What Does ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ Mean?

‘The whole nine yards’ is an American idiom that means the entire amount or the complete amount of something.

  • It’s a phrase commonly used to indicate that you’re speaking about everything that’s appropriate, available, or pertinent in every way.

You might hear someone say:

'We had a lot of pets growing up – dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, fish – the whole nine yards.'

The phrase can be used similarly to how ‘etc.’ is used. When you’re listing out a series of items, and you don’t want to list every single item, you’d likely use ‘the whole nine yards.’

Additionally, the phrase might also be used in the following context:

We can help get you signed up, set up, and moved in – the whole nine yards.

The Whole Nine Yards is also a crime comedy movie released in 2000 about a struggling dentist whose life is turned upside down when a famous gangster moves in next door to him, and his wife tries to convince him to snitch on the guy and let a notorious mob boss know where their new neighbor is.

Where Does ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ Come From?

The phrase ‘the whole nine yards’ is said to come from:

  • The bullets for the machine guns used in American combat planes during WW2 that was in chains that were 27 feet long.

Therefore, if a pilot was able to fire all his bullets off at one target, he was said to have given his adversaries ‘the full nine yards.’

  • Other sources say that it comes from the capacity of a cement truck in cubic yards.

Some people say that it dates back to when square riggers had three masts. Each one had three yards supporting the sails. The whole nine yards meant that the sails were fully set.

Examples of ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ in Sentences 

How would you use ‘the whole nine yards’ in a sentence?

Let’s see some examples: 

  • For my high school prom, my mom got me a facial, blowout, mani-pedi, eyebrow wax – the whole nine yards. She wanted to make sure I was plucked and polished to perfection for the biggest night of my life so far.
  • For my birthday, my mom went all out and flew me to Vegas for the entire Vegas experience: strippers, limos, casinos – the whole nine yards. And my husband doesn’t know, but what happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas!
  • In the show Abbott Elementary, Janine Teagues goes above and beyond for her students. She buys supplies out of pocket, comes up with creative projects, and encourages her students – the whole nine yards. She’s really a great teacher but doesn’t get much to show for it on Teacher’s Day.
  • For my wedding anniversary, my husband went all out. He bought me a beautiful gown, took me out to a five-star restaurant, took me to the movies – the whole nine yards.
  • Even though it was raining cats and dogs, my son went the whole nine yards to bring me my medicine. He’s really good to me. The same can’t be said for my daughter, however.
  • For the photo shoot and fashion show, we went all out. We got a venue, lights, a stage, photographers, models – the whole nine yards.
  • I’ve never seen the movie, The Whole Nine Yards, but someone told me it was okay. I might watch it, or I might not. I’m not sure yet.
  • In college, my son usually went above and beyond to keep a good grade point average. He studied, did extra credit work every time it was available, and worked long hours writing essays – the whole nine yards. The tables have turned in grad school, though. He’s barely making it through.

Other Ways to Say ‘The Whole Nine Yards’

What are some other ways to say ‘the whole nine yards’?

Let’s see some examples:

  • Totally
  • Whole
  • Full
  • Grand total
  • The whole shebang
  • Sum total
  • All the way
  • The full monty
  • Complete
  • The complete amount
  • The works
  • The whole ball of wax
  • Whole deal
  • Whole shtick
  • Whole kit and boodle
  • Kit and caboodle
  • Limit
  • Whole show
  • Full measure
  • All of it
  • Whole mess
  • Bag of tricks
  • Whole bag
  • 100 percent
  • Whole enchilada
  • Ten out of ten
  • One’s all
  • Everything
  • The lot
  • All one’s got
  • Everything possible
  • Entirety

Concluding Thoughts on ‘The Whole Nine Yards’

To recap, we learned the following:

  • ‘The whole nine yards’ means everything you can possibly want, have, or do in a particular situation. 

Essentially, it means everything or a whole lot of something.

If you ever get stuck on anything, feel free to come back to review what you learned. We’ve also got a bunch of other content on idioms that you might find useful as you’re learning the language. Go check it out anytime.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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