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[kal-uh-boos, kal-uh-boos] /ˈkæl əˌbus, ˌkæl əˈbus/
noun, Slang.
jail; prison; lockup.
Origin of calaboose
1785-95, Americanism; (< North American F) < Spanish calabozo dungeon, of obscure origin Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for calaboose
Historical Examples
  • One afternoon an old American tar was put in the calaboose for riotous conduct while drunk.

    The Funny Philosophers George Yellott
  • When we got to the calaboose, he unlocked the door and started to put us in.

    Mitch Miller Edgar Lee Masters
  • The drunkards had been put into the calaboose by the soldiers, and the others had gone to bed to sleep it off.

    Elam Storm, The Wolfer Harry Castlemon
  • They left him in the calaboose with whatever reflections were his.

    Trail's End George W. Ogden
  • Then the drummer, or whoever it was, would be took to the calaboose, and spend all night there.

    Danny's Own Story Don Marquis
  • Who knows the truth and speaks too loose In Berlin gets in the calaboose!

    Major Prophets of To-Day Edwin E. Slosson
  • An army might lose enthusiasm and prestige if it spent a night or two in the calaboose.

  • He saw John Bunyan running loose, and put him in the calaboose.

  • You are both going down hill, and the first thing you know you'll do something that will get you in the calaboose.

    The Boy Trapper Harry Castlemon
  • Powell called to him, "How much will you charge to haul this load to the calaboose?"

    The Long Dim Trail Forrestine C. Hooker
British Dictionary definitions for calaboose


(US, informal) a prison; jail
Word Origin
C18: from Creole French, from Spanish calabozo dungeon, of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for calaboose

"prison," 1792, American English, from Louisiana French calabouse, from Spanish calabozo "dungeon," probably from Vulgar Latin *calafodium, from pre-Roman *cala "protected place, den" + Latin fodere "to dig" (see fossil).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for calaboose



A jail or prison; cell

[late 1700s+; fr Spanish calabozo]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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