Intermediate+ Word of the Day: kit

kit (noun, verb) /kɪt/ LISTEN

As you may know, a kit—sometimes used as a suffix—is a set of tools, supplies, or any material used for a particular purpose and also the container to put all these things in. It is also a set of materials for assembling something. Mainly in UK English, clothing used for a particular purpose is also called kit. As a verb, in US English, to kit means ‘to make available as a kit’ and, in UK English, now usually followed by out, ‘to equip.’ Unrelatedly, a kit is an abbreviated form of kit-fox—a type of small fox found in northwestern America, about half the size of a normal fox. It is also an abbreviated form of kitten, which we think you know is a baby cat, but it is also the name for the young of several other animals, including rabbits and beavers.

Example sentences

  • The plumber carried his toolkit into the house to do the work.
  • Can you put those bandages away in the first aid kit, please?
  • Joe gave his daughter a model plane kit.
  • Ruth put on her running kit and set out for her morning jog.
  • The manufacturer is kitting a new model airplane for model-making enthusiasts.
  • It was raining, so we kitted ourselves out with raincoats and wellington boots.
  • The rabbit gave birth to a litter of kits last night.

Words often used with kit

the whole kit, the whole kit and caboodle, the whole kit and boodle: the complete set of something or a whole group of people. Originally and still mainly US English, the term is sometimes used in UK English, but only in the form “the whole kit and caboodle” and only to refer to things, not people. Example: “When he retired, Geoff made over the business, the whole kit and caboodle, to his son and daughter.”

kit-bag, kitbag, kit bag: a strong bag, usually long and thin and made from canvas, for carrying a soldier’s kit. Example: “When his leave was over, the soldier packed everything into his kit-bag and set off back to the front.”

In pop culture

There is a well-known wartime song, originally a marching song from World War I, written in 1915, called “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag.” Here is a scene from the 1969 British musical war film, Oh What a Lovely War, which features the song at the end:

Additional information

A kit is also a small violin, also known as a pochette fiddle, small enough to be carried in a pocket, that was used by dance teachers in the 17th and 18th centuries, as they could carry it around with them. Here is a short video of someone demonstrating one that he made himself:

Did you know?

In UK English, as well as meaning clothing for a particular purpose, kit can mean clothing generally, but usually only when we’re about removing it and particularly in the expression “get your kit off.” Example: “Everyone else was already swimming in the pool when I arrived, so I hurried to get my kit off and join them.”

One more meaning before you go

In New Zealand, a kit is basket made from flax.

Origin

Kit dates back to the mid-13th century, when the Middle English kyt or kitt originally meant ‘a round wooden tub.’ It comes from the Middle Dutch kitte (jug, tankard or wooden container), though its origin before then is unknown. The meaning ‘collection of personal belongings,’ usually for travelling, and especially when referring to a soldier, is from the late 18th century, and is a transferral of the meaning from the container to the objects it contains. This meaning was expanded over time to include any set or collection, and kit was soon used as a suffix to specify the purpose of the objects in the set (toolkit, drumkit). The meaning ‘materials to assemble something’ is from the 1930s. The verb comes from the noun, and has only been used since the early 20th century. The kit-bag (used by soldiers) is from the 1890s. The small fox often known as a kit was named in the late 19th century as a kit-fox, using a shortened form of kitten from the mid-16th century, to describe its small size. Finally, kit meaning the small fiddle dates back to the early 16th century, and is probably a shortened form of the Old English cythere, from the Latin cythara, and the Greek kithara, a word that also gave us guitar.

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