From Soup to Nuts – Meaning, Origin and Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Soup to nuts is an idiom that can mean from beginning to end or to cover every aspect of something. This strange phrase whisks us back to traditional American and British dinners where soup was usually the first course and nuts, well, they were the grand finale.

Idioms are phrases or expressions whose meaning cannot be understood from the ordinary meanings of their individual words. Knowing idioms like soup to nuts is so important; they’re like the jalapeños on your pizza, if pizza was language. Not understanding idioms can lead to some pretty awkward or misunderstood conversations, kind of like bringing a turkey sandwich to a vegan potluck.

Stick with me for a moment, and I’ll explain the meaning and the very essence of this phrase, giving you the tools to use it like a pro and appreciate the role idioms play in making English as rich and varied as a well-stocked pantry.

From Soup to Nuts – Meaning Origin and Examples

It is an idiom that means from start to end or the entire gamut. The phrase comes from the idea of a full-course meal, which starts with soup and then finishes with a nutty dessert.

Where Did the Term Soup to Nuts Originate?

From Soup to Nuts Ngram
Soup to nuts usage trend.

The origin of the American English expression of the idiom phrase from soup to nuts is the idea of a full-course complete meal. Humans have been eating dinner for many centuries, including an appetizer, main dish, or entree, then a dessert. Soups are the typical appetizer, while a sweet treat with nuts is the dessert.

This expression is not limited to fine dining. You can also use it in products, services, and classes. It’s similar to the cliche expression from start to finish, which originated in sports.

Etymology also suggests that the original idioms were from pottage to cheese and from eggs to apples. From soup to nuts only came to the United States during the 20th century. 

The phrase is also a feature film in the 1930s and an episode of Mama’s Family. That’s So Raven also has an episode with the same title.

From Soup to Nuts Synonym

  • Absolute.
  • All-out.
  • Complete.
  • Comprehensive.
  • In-depth.
  • Intensive.
  • From A to Z.
  • From start to finish.
  • From potage to cheese.
  • From eggs to apples.
  • Throughgoing.
  • Whole-hog.

Exact Phrasing Soup to Nuts Examples

From Soup to Nuts – Meaning Origin and Examples 1

Dr. Stanley A. Plotkin, a long-time vaccine researcher and scientific adviser to the new coalition, said members debated which of 10 diseases to target first and picked three because “taking a vaccine from soup to nuts costs at least half a billion dollars.” (The New York Times)

It is offering a nationwide soup-to-nuts service that provides siting, planning, permitting, and construction of E.V. charging stations. (The New York Times)

“His job was to take care of everything soup to nuts, apparatus, air packs gear,” said Chief Michael Garrahy of the Rocky Hill Fire Department. Michael and Jim grew up together and have only grown closer over the years. (FOX61)

Abdulhafed Abdulla, born in Yemen but more lately in Arab-American capital Dearborn, Mich., turned a former Rite-Aid into a diverse market that goes far beyond soup to nuts. (Buffalo News)

If you haven’t watched it yet, I seriously advise that you do‎, as I think you will find it difficult not to laugh out loud from gun to tape (or indeed from soup to nuts). (GQ Magazine)

Improve Your English Skills from Soup to Nuts

You already understand the idiom and what soup to nuts means (or should I say, from soup to nuts?). The expression means from start to end or covering every detail. Its etymology can be traced back to American English as a variant of “from pottage to cheese”.

Practice using idioms like the dogs are barking to creatively express yourself if you’re writing an article or a book!

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: