passepartout, n. – ‘ Originally: †a person who may go anywhere (obs.). Subsequently: a thing giving a person the right or opportunity to go anywhere; spec. a key that opens any or many doors, a master key; (occas.) a passport. Freq. in extended use and fig.’
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈpaspɑːtuː/, /ˈpaspətuː/, /ˌpaspɑːˈtuː/, /ˌpaspəˈtuː/, U.S. /ˌpɑspɑrˈtu/
Forms: 16 paspartout, 16–17 passepartout, 17 passpartout, 17– passepartout.
Etymology: < French passe-partout (1564 in Middle French in sense ‘person who may go anywhere’, 1567 in Middle French in sense ‘key that opens many doors’, 1677 in figurative use, 1690 in sense 2a, c1830 in sense 2b) < passe- (see pass- comb. form) + partout everywhere (end of the 10th cent. in Old French as per tot; < par through, by (see per prep.) + tout all: see tout adv., n.4, and adj.).
1. Originally: †a person who may go anywhere (obs.). Subsequently: a thing giving a person the right or opportunity to go anywhere; spec. a key that opens any or many doors, a master key; (occas.) a passport. Freq. in extended use and fig.
[1655 J. Howell 4th Vol. Familiar Lett. xix. 52 A travelling warrant is call'd Passeport, wheras the Original is passe par tout.]
1675 W. Wycherley Country-wife i. 6 Now may I..be in short the Pas par tout of the Town.
1680 Dryden Kind Keeper v. i. 55 With this Passe par tout, I will instantly conduct her to my own Chamber.
1700 W. Congreve Way of World iii. i. 38 Why this Wench is the Pass-par-tout, a very Master-Key to every Bodies strong Box.
1710 D. Manley Mem. Europe I. iii. 313 One of my Servants, who is gone with two of Monsieur Le Envoy's, and his passe par toute to Nova.
1749 Lady M. W. Montagu Let. to C'tess Bute 30 Nov., He opened his door with the passe-partout key.
1760 S. Foote Minor i. 23 My art, sir, is a pass-par-tout. I seldom want employment.
1826 M. Kelly Reminisc. I. iv. 71, I must say, that at the time I speak of, to be a native of Great Britain, was a passe partout all over Italy!
1833 C. MacFarlane Lives Banditti (1837) 365 Shortly after the prior went with a passe-partout, and opened the door of his cell.
1918 E. J. Dillon Eclipse of Russia x. 178 He showed them his passe-partout and they set him at liberty at once.
1987 Sunday Times 4 Oct. 64/2 The tale wields the dreamy passe-partout of extreme wealth.
2002 Sydney Morning Herald (Nexis) 23 May (News & Features section) 24 The chambermaids had passe-partouts, but when your key was in the keyhole you were assured privacy.