The Whole (Full) Nine Nines (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "The Whole (Full) Nine Nines"?

The ammunition belt for the Supermarine Spitfire was nine yards in length. Therefore, a pilot who stated that he had given the enemy aircraft the whole nine yards was claiming that he had fired every single round at his adversary. Going the whole/full nine yards came to mean doing as much as possible.

Competing Theory

Some claim that the term "the whole nine yards" predates the Supermarine Spitfire. According to them, the term probably refers to the amount of cloth needed to make a traditional kilt.

Of note, we could find no evidence that "the whole/full nine yards" was in regular use before the 1940s. [evidence]

Previous and Next Sayings

Test Your Knowledge of English Proverbs and Idioms

Ready for the Test?

More Proverbs, Sayings, and Idioms

Next lesson >

See Also

What are idioms? What is figurative language? A list of common grammar errors A list of easily confused words A list of sayings and proverbs

Page URL