everything; the full extent
by 1970, of unknown origin; perhaps arbitrary (cf. cloud nine). Among the guesses that have been made without real evidence: concrete mixer trucks were said to have dispensed in this amount. Or the yard may be in the slang sense of "one hundred dollars."
Several similar phrases meaning "everything" arose in the 1940s (whole ball of wax, which is likewise of obscure origin, whole schmear); older examples include whole hog (see hog (n.)) and whole shooting match (1896); whole shebang (1895).
"ground around a house," Old English geard "enclosure, garden, court, house, yard," from Proto-Germanic *garda (cf. Old Norse garðr "enclosure, garden, yard;" Old Frisian garda, Dutch gaard, Old High German garto, German Garten "garden;" Gothic gards "house," garda "stall"), from PIE *gharto-, from root *gher- "to grasp, enclose" (cf. Old English gyrdan "to gird," Sanskrit ghra- "house," Albanian garth "hedge," Latin hortus "garden," Phrygian -gordum "town," Greek khortos "pasture," Old Irish gort "field," Breton garz "enclosure, garden," and second element in Latin cohors "enclosure, yard, company of soldiers, multitude").
Lithuanian gardas "pen, enclosure," Old Church Slavonic gradu "town, city," and Russian gorod, -grad "town, city" belong to this group, but linguists dispute whether they are independent developments or borrowings from Germanic. Yard sale is attested by 1976. Middle English yerd "yard-land" (mid-15c.) was a measure of about 30 acres.
measure of length, Old English gerd (Mercian), gierd (West Saxon) "rod, stick, measure of length," from West Germanic *gazdijo, from Proto-Germanic *gazdaz "stick, rod" (cf. Old Saxon gerda, Old Frisian ierde, Dutch gard "rod;" Old High German garta, German gerte "switch, twig," Old Norse gaddr "spike, sting, nail"), from PIE *gherdh- "staff, pole" (cf. Latin hasta "shaft, staff"). The nautical yardarm retains the original sense of "stick."
Originally in Anglo-Saxon times a land measure of roughly 5 meters (a length later called rod, pole, or perch). Modern measure of "three feet" is attested from late 14c. (earlier rough equivalent was the ell of 45 inches, and the verge). In Middle English, the word also was a euphemism for "penis" (cf. "Love's Labour's Lost," V.ii.676). Slang meaning "one hundred dollars" first attested 1926, American English.
A unit of length in the US Customary System equal to 3 feet or 36 inches (0.91 meter). See Table at measurement.
A hundred dollars; a $100 bill: ''Mac, what you payin' for this?'' Stony looked around the room. ''A yard and ahalf ''
[1926+; fr the unit of measure]