What’s the Deal with the Phrase Chock Full?


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What is the term chock full? What does it mean? Why isn’t it chalk full instead? Read on to learn about this confusing English idiom.

5 Minute Grammar Lesson - chock full or chalk full

I made this mistake on my blog a couple of weeks ago and a friend was kind enough to point it out. Thanks, Chantal!

In a post I wrote about what to eat when the pantry is empty, I made a remark about something being CHALK-FULL. Turns out, chalk has nothing to do with it (whatever IT is). The expression is CHOCK-FULL. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it, right? 🙂

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase “chock-full”? Maybe you’ve seen it written in a book or heard it on TV. But have you ever stopped to wonder what it means and why it’s spelled that way?

What the heck does Chock-full?

Simply put, CHOCK FULL means completely full or packed to capacity. When something is chock-full, there’s no room for anything else. For example, you might say that your schedule is chock-full if you have no free time or that your suitcase is chock-full if you’ve packed it to the brim.

It’s interesting to think for a minute about where the phrase CHOCK FULL comes from. The word “chock” actually has several meanings, one of which is a wedge or block used to prevent movement. In nautical terms, a chock is a fitting on a ship’s deck used to secure ropes or cables. So, when something is chock-full, it’s packed so tightly that it’s like a wedge or block that prevents anything else from moving.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: why isn’t it spelled “chalk full”? After all, “chalk” is a word, and it sort of makes sense that something could be so full that it’s overflowing with chalk, right? Well, not exactly. While “chalk full” is a common misspelling of “chock-full,” it’s not correct.

The origins of “chock-full” can be traced back to Middle English, where the word “chokke” meant a block or plug. Over time, this word evolved into “chock,” which eventually came to mean a wedge or block used to prevent movement. So, the “chock” in “chock-full” has nothing to do with chalk at all.

Chalk-full Or Chock-full ~5 minute grammar lesson

And there you have it. Even know-it-all, self-proclaimed Grammar Queens make mistakes! 😉

For more 5 Minute Grammar Lessons, read here.

More grammar posts you may like:

Alot or A Lot?

Then or Than?

Your welcome or You’re Welcome

How to make the word PEOPLE possessive

Bias or Biased?

Do to or Due to?

Less or Fewer?

Should have gone or Should have went?

If you’re looking for helpful grammar resources, here are my top picks:

Strunk & White Elements of Style

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation 

The Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. I found this…seems the likely definition and reason…”the first element represents Middle English chokken ‘to cram’, from an Old French word for ‘to thrust’, with the compound thus meaning ‘crammed full’;” from The Maven’s Word of the Day (http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19980122). I understand if you don’t want to post the link. Just thought it might help! It’s not my link anyway!

  2. I am in the middle of writing a blog post and wanting to use the expression. I originally wrote “chalk full”. As I was proof reading it I wondered if that was correct. So I googled “chalk full” and guess where I landed…HERE! So thank you so entirely much for this post! I am sure you have saved many others the embarrassment. 🙂 Obviously, it could happen to anyone.

  3. It originated as a description for someone being full to the point of choking (choke-full). Then it mutated to chock-full and sometimes even chock-full.