chock-a-block

Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Squeezed together; jammed.
  • adjective Completely filled; stuffed.
  • adjective Nautical Drawn so close as to have the blocks touching. Used of a ship's hoisting tackle.
  • adverb Chock.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Alternative spelling of chockablock.
  • adverb Alternative spelling of chockablock.

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Alteration (influenced by chock) of block-a-block : block + a– + block.]

Examples

Comments

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  • The present meaning (filled to capacity or overloaded) derives from a nautical term. The derivation of chock isn't entirely clear, but the word is thought to have come from chock-full (or "choke-full"), meaning "full to choking." This meaning was later used to name the wedges of wood used to secure moving objects. On sailing ships, a block and tackle pulley system was used to hoist the rigging. The phrase chock-a-block describes what occurs when the system is raised to its fullest extent, i.e., when there is no more rope free and the blocks jam tightly together.

    December 10, 2007

  • By hauling the reef-tackles chock-a-block we took the strain from the other earings, and passing the close-reef earing, and knotting the points carefully, we succeeded in setting the sail, close reefed.

    - Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, ch. 25

    September 9, 2008