What Does “A Whole New Ball of Wax” Mean and Where Did the Expression Come From?

Seventeenth-century English law used a unique way to settle the contested division of an estate.

The executor divided the estate into the number of heirs, then wrote down each parcel of land in the estate on an individual scrawl.

To keep it secret, each scrawl was then covered by wax and made into a ball, which was then placed into a hat.

Beginning with the eldest, the heirs then drew the balls at random, with the estate settled by the contents of each ball of wax.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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