I hear this phase spoken and rarely written, but Merriam-Webster has a definition their website. The origin states "Middle English chokkefull, probably from choken to choke + full."

Does anyone have more information on the origin? What is chokkefull?

  • This one's a bit tricky, as there are some false cognates involved, and Wiktionary gets it wrong. May 20, 2013 at 0:41

5 Answers 5


The Online Etymology Dictionary offers more detail:

c.1400, chokkeful “crammed full,” possibly from choke “cheek” (see cheek (n.)). Or it may be from Old French choquier “collide, crash, hit” [similar to shock].

Middle English chokkeful already had the same meaning as modern chock-full. Both this word and choke “to strangle” likely derive ultimately from Old English words meaning “jaw, cheek.” The end result is the same: a mouthful.

Alternately, chokkeful may derive from a more violent word: forced full.

(Wiktionary offers a false etymology based on the kind of chocks used in carpentry and shipbuilding: full up to the chocks, perhaps. However that sense of chock only dates to the 1670s, far too late to influence the Middle English word.)

  • Wiktionary is editable. How about correcting the etymology?
    – Hugo
    May 20, 2013 at 6:19
  • @Hugo I don't know the standards there well enough to edit etymology, but I did just leave feedback that the entry is incorrect and why. May 20, 2013 at 6:29
  • 1
    Nor do I, but just go for it; their policy is to be bold in updating pages.
    – Hugo
    May 20, 2013 at 9:21
  • So this has nothing to do with sidewalk chalk. Thanks.
    – styfle
    May 20, 2013 at 20:27
  • "possibly from" ... "Or it may be" ? How 'bout: chock-full "late Middle English: of unknown origin; later associated with chock." –Google
    – Mazura
    Jun 19, 2016 at 23:19

Just an idea. It may come from farmers and from the habit of fattening geese so that they get a fat liver for liver pâté. The food was stuffed into the throat of the animals with force, with a stick, I suppose, till they were almost choked. From this situation an expression such as choke-full might have its origin, which might easily transform to chockfull when the origin of the word was forgotten. My idea, I haven't done any research yet.

I've just read etymonline's entry. Funny that Douglas Harper comes to choke but interprets it as cheek and gets in my view on a wrong track.

  • 1
    You have this habit of writing down answers and saying you haven't done any research. Then invariably you look at etymonline and nearly always disagree with it. Well, why not find sources that support your ideas? Moreover, in the accepted answer, there is the etymonline entry quoted, which says "possibly from choke". Harper also refers to the OED, so by disagreeing with him, you're probably disagreeing with one of the world's most authoritative dictionaries, before claiming Etymonline and the OED are wrong, I would check my facts. Just saying for the record.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 15, 2015 at 7:43
  • Harrap's view is to choke in the sense of cheek. I understand to coke as to stuff (geese, almost till they die). That is a probable and realistic situation and quite different from the idea cheek which is nebulous.
    – rogermue
    Jun 15, 2015 at 7:58
  • So are you saying then choke is of French origin? When is the history of foie gras , does it coincide with "chok(e)full". If it precedes the 14th century, you might be onto something. But the image of someone stuffing food in their mouth until their cheeks are engorged (full) to almost bursting point, doesn't sound so nebulous to me. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foie_gras#Ancient_times
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 15, 2015 at 8:13
  • The corn isn't stuffed into their cheeks but down their throat, because the geese would not eat anything more otherwise. It was an inhuman cruelty to animals and I think it is forbidden today.
    – rogermue
    Jun 15, 2015 at 9:11

A lot of English words come from Low German or Dutch. There is the word "tjokvol" in Dutch meaning exactly the same as chock-full.


The "chock" was the Old English name for a small scoop — one could purchase a portion of a "scoop" of, say, coffee or nuts; or a half-scoop; or a "chock"-full (as in the name of the coffee).

  • 1
    ". . ." is not acceptable punctuation, in any language, under any circumstances ever. Please do not do that. Thank you.
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 10, 2013 at 8:53

I think it comes from the Turkish word çok, meaning very or a lot. It's said the same way and it would make sense to be very full.

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    Thanks for providing this answer, however, given the referenced etymology above, it seems unlikely to be correct. Jun 14, 2015 at 20:29

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