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Chock-full

The word meaning full to the limit is chock-full. It is commonly misspelled chalk-full, probably due to the close similarity in sound between chock and chalk especially in American pronunciation. Chock-full‘s origins are mysterious, though there are many theories that we won’t go into here. There is usually a hyphen between chock and full, though you’ll often see the term with a space instead of a hyphen.

Here are a few examples of chock-full used well:

This Blu-ray is chock-full of extras, and they’re worth digging into. [Hollywood.com]

Today, that mine, chock-full of so-called rare-earth metals, is responsible for one of the fastest windfalls in private-equity history. [Wall Street Journal]

But really, the collection (from Versace’s secondary line) was chock-full of pieces that would find favor on the red carpet any day of the week. [Los Angeles Times]


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For some reason, it’s quite common for writers who use this phrase to follow it with o’—for example:

Meanwhile, the internet is chock full o’ rumors that the Yankees are about to make a trade for a starter. [Boston Globe]

We don’t know where this comes from. We welcome ideas.

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Comments

  1. While I don’t know the origins of chock-full, I suspect the use of the o’ comes from it’s long standing use in the brand name Chock full o’Nuts. This name was first used in 1926 by William Black for his nut shop in Manhattan (which subsequently became a chain of coffee shop style restaurants in the New York area). Originally the name was a reference to Mr. Black’s signature “nutted cheese” sandwich which was made of cream cheese and chopped nuts on dark raisin bread. The sandwich was served with a cup of coffee for a nickel. Later, in 1953, Mr. Black introduced the coffee to supermarkets as the “Chock Full o’Nuts” coffee brand.

  2. My understanding of “chock-full” is that it is of various older english and french origin and refers to things being crammed so tightly together that they cannot budge. The old english word “chokken” coming from the french “choquier”

  3. Dear Grammarist, thanks for clarifying.  I read elsewhere that it comes from being so filled up you’re about to choke – choke-full.

    • In response to the question about “chalk full”, the error is common among those American English speakers who do not distinguish the vowels in “don/dawn” or “cot/caught”. For them, “chock” and “chalk” are pronounced identically. Since “chock” doesn’t really occur outside this expression, they write the word they know better, “chalk”.

      • Grammarist says:

        Good point. With my Midwestern U.S. way of speaking, “chock” and “chalk” have the same vowel sound, and the l in “chalk” might be easy to miss if I were speaking fast.

      • Speaking of the words “don” and “dawn” being pronounced the same, I have a friend who has both a Don and a Dawn family member. I was shocked, as a teenager, to hear the family speak of “Boy Don” and “Girl Don” (their approximate pronunciations)! It made no sense to me, at all. These days, I often hear radio and TV ads for auto sales and auto repair that are pronounced “Otto sales” and “Otto repair.” It makes me wonder who this guy Otto is!

  4. Seems similar to Chock-a-Block -a nautical term which means packed full.
    http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-cho3.htm

  5. Using “o'” with “chock” might come from mostly having seen the word used in the name of Chock Full o’ Nuts Coffee. (And if you’re now wondering why a coffee company would be full of nuts, it’s because it started out as a nut company.)

  6. reardensteel says:

    A lot of people think the expression is “chalk-full”; does anyone know why?

    • In response to the question about “chalk full”, the error is common
      among those American English speakers who do not distinguish the vowels
      in “don/dawn” or “cot/caught”. For them, “chock” and “chalk” are
      pronounced identically. Since “chock” doesn’t really occur outside this
      expression, they write the word they know better, “chalk”.

  7. I recently saw “chocked full” and somewhere and just shook my head.

  8. Could it come from tchotchke, which generally means a trinket or bauble – thus, full of junk or little things?

  9. Anderson says:

    Can you say “This space chocked full of

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