• My favorite understanding of this phrase is that during WWII, the US Army Air Corps fighter aircraft had a maximum capacity of nine yards (belt fed) of ammunition for the machine guns. So if the pilots emptied thier guns on the enemy they would say "I gave him the whole nine yards!" However, it seems this phrase is highly contested. Check the link below to see some of the possible origins.
  • As a previous answer said, the origin of this phrase is "highly contested". . .a bit more on that from The bad news is that the origin of "the whole nine yards," meaning "the whole thing" or "everything," is, and probably will remain, an utter mystery. Nobody knows for sure, and anyone who claims to is blowing smoke. Still, the search for the origin of this phrase has been so energetic that it would be a shame not to trot out a few of the more lively theories, so I've decided to devote this column and the next to this topic. The question, of course, is "nine yards of what?" Many things, it seems, involve more or less nine yards of something, but none of the explanations I've heard involves precisely and invariably nine yards of something common enough to explain the popularity of the phrase. One theory, for example, holds that prisons were once built with a "no man's land" beyond the wall, nine yards wide, that escapees had to cross before they made a clean getaway. While this may have been true of a particular prison, it seems a shaky basis for so popular a term. Tune in next time, when we'll look at some other theories about "the whole nine yards." And. . .in another column: OK, I'm back, and the answer to your question about the origin of "the whole nine yards" (meaning "the whole thing" or "everything") is that nobody knows for sure. There are dozens of theories about this phrase, many of them passionately held by folks who send them to me at the rate of about ten per week. Not one of these theories, unfortunately, has ever been verified. Some of the more popular theories trace "the whole nine yards" to the amount of cloth needed to make a wedding dress or bridal train, a man's three-piece suit, a burial shroud, or other apparel. Other theories trace the phrase to the capacity of cement mixers, or assert that the "yards" actually refers to "yardarms," the spars on a large sailing ship that actually hold the sails. One theory particularly popular at the moment (judging from my mail) is that machine gun ammunition belts in World War Two fighter planes were nine yards long, so that a pilot who expended all his ammo in a dogfight would be said to have shot "the whole nine yards." There are flaws in all these theories. "The whole nine yards" first cropped up in print in the mid-1960s, so any explanations tracing the phrase to sailing ships are unlikely to be true. "Nine yards" is not a standard amount of material in connection with any garment or cement mixer. And even if machine gun belts really were 27 feet long in WWII, why has the phrase "the whole nine yards" not been found in a single published account of that very well-documented war? The problem here is not lack of theories that "sound good," but lack of solid, not hearsay or word-of-mouth, evidence. What we need, and I'd be thrilled to see it, is an example of "the whole nine yards" in print (preferably before the mid-1960s) that uses the phrase in reference to a specific trade or custom, not just in its modern "the whole shebang" sense.
  • The term "the whole 9 yards" came from W.W.II fighter pilots in the South 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.
  • It is a load of cement in the standard delivery style cement mixing trucks
  • I have heard that the ammunition of a mounted machine gun in WWII was belted in 9 yard belts. So when the commander said to attack, he said give them the whole nine yards of ammo.
  • There are MANY attempted definitions. The earliest use of the term goes back to the mid-19th century and relates to fabricating a dress for nine yards of material. All seem to be imaginative inventions. So please take your pick or make up your own. 1 - It comes from the nine cubic yards capacity of US concrete trucks and dates from around 1967. This is likely false, since the largest concrete mixers were smaller than 9 cubic yards at that time. 2 - It is derived in various forms from World War II aircraft, which would then predate the concrete truck "definition". - length of bomb racks - length of RAF Spitfire machine gun ammo belts - length of ammo belts in anti-aircraft guns and other such weapons (there is no clear confirmation of ANY of these) 3 - It is related to tailors using nine yards of material for top quality suits. This may be the real source, since it correlates to "dressed to the nines". 4 - If it was a contraction of "yardarm", large three maseted naval shops had a total of nine yardarms. Not until all nine yardarms have their sails unfurled would it be possible for a pursuer to accurately predict the target ships direction. Also lame. 5 - Then there is one which purportedly dates into the middle ages in which a victim was required to walk nine paces (yards) over hot coals.
  • It means "all the way" or "completely". As in "They decked the place out with balloons, streamers, candles; the whole nine yards." Origin of this phrase is debated but the earliest recorded use of it in this context (used to mean "all the way") was during the Vietnam war by US servicemen. The ammo belt on most machine guns at the time (mainly the M60) were nine yards long if fired from the ammunition tin. The phrase was used to describe enemy engagements where servicemen expended the entire ammo belt, "we fired everything we had, the whole nine yards." There are other explanations floating around, however they are either used out of context or have no recorded history of this (eg: one of the earliest written records of the use of the phrase is from 1942 when it was used to describe the production output of a large shipping complex, describing the output of "the whole nine yards" meaning the nine ship yards).
  • The saying dates from the World War II and The Korean conflict, where "nine yards" was the length of an aircraft machine-gun ammunition belt loaded into the wings 50 cal., and to "go the full nine yards" was to use it up entirely. Todays fighters hold far more ammunition than those early planes and latter jets yo...
  • I read a book about Special Forces in Vietnam (I forget the title and author) a few years ago. According to that book the squads consisted of three-four American SOG-soldiers and up to nine Montangnards depending of the mission. The French called the Vietnamese mountanipeople Montangnards and the Americans started calling them yards. When a mission demanded maximum man- and firepower they went with "the whole nine yards", meaning that they "maxed out" the squad. The vast spreading of the phrase could be because SF are highly regarded in I guess every army and is often imitated, in both lingo and apearance.
  • It supposedly is derived from the old practice of using nine yards of fabric to create a man's suit.
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  • The phrase 'the whole nine yards' relates to the RAF Bomber Command air gunners during WWII.Their machine guns were fed with a nine webbing yard belt of ammunition,and when they they shot down an enemy aircraft they would say afterwards" I gave them the whole nine yards" meaning belt of ammunition.
  • My understanding is that a great kilt (and no, not the pleated skirts so many think of when they hare the word kilt) is nine yards long, and it would take a woman about a full year of weaving to produce the whole nine yards. This is why many Scottish warriors would go into battle naked. They would undress, and fold up the kilt before going into battle out of respect for their wife's work.

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