whole ball of wax, the

Also, the whole enchilada or shooting match or shebang. Everything, all the elements, the entire affair. For example, The union demanded higher wages, a pension plan, job security—the whole ball of wax, or The contract includes paperback rights, film rights, electronic media—the whole enchilada, or She lost her job, her pension, her health-care coverage, the whole shooting match. Not all the allusions in these slangy terms are clear. Ball of wax may refer to a 17th-century English legal practice whereby land was divided among heirs by covering scraps of paper representing portions of land with wax, rolling each into a ball, and drawing the balls from a hat. An enchilada combines several foods inside a tortilla; a shooting match denotes a shooting competition; and a shebang is a rude hut or shelter. The first two of these slangy terms date from the second half of the 1900s, the last two from the late 1800s. For synonyms, see whole kit and caboodle; whole megillah.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.