Entries linking to catch-all
c. 1200, "to take, capture," from Anglo-French or Old North French cachier "catch, capture" (animals) (Old French chacier "hunt, pursue, drive (animals)," Modern French chasser "to hunt;" making it a doublet of chase (v.)), from Vulgar Latin *captiare "try to seize, chase" (also source of Spanish cazar, Italian cacciare), from Latin captare "to take, hold," frequentative of capere "to take, hold," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp."
Its senses in early Middle English also included "chase, hunt," which later went with chase (v.). Of sleep, etc., from early 14c.; of infections from 1540s; of fire from 1734 (compare Greek apto "fasten, grasp, touch," also "light, kindle, set on fire, catch on fire"). Related: Catched (obsolete); catching; caught.
Meaning "act as a catcher in baseball" recorded from 1865. To catch on "apprehend, understand" is 1884, American English colloquial. To catch the eye "draw the attention" is attested by 1718. Catch as catch can has roots in late 14c. (cacche who that cacche might).
Old English eall "every, entire, the whole quantity of" (adj.), "fully, wholly, entirely" (adv.), from Proto-Germanic *alnaz (source also of Old Frisian, Old High German al; German all, alle; Old Norse allr; Gothic alls), with no certain connection outside Germanic. As a noun, in Old English, "all that is, everything."
Combinations with all meaning "wholly, without limit" were common in Old English (such as eall-halig "all-holy," eall-mihtig "all-mighty") and the method continued to form new compound words throughout the history of English. Middle English had al-wher "wherever; whenever" (early 14c.); al-soon "as soon as possible," al-what (c. 1300) "all sorts of things, whatever."
Of the common modern phrases with it, at all "in any way" is from mid-14c., and all "and everything (else)" is from 1530s, all but "everything short of" is from 1590s. First record of all out "to one's full powers" is 1880. All clear as a signal of "no danger" is recorded from 1902. All right, indicative of assent or approval, is attested by 1837; the meaning "satisfactory, acceptable" is by 1939, from the notion of "turning out well."
The use of a, a' as an abbreviation of all (as in Burns' "A Man's a Man for A' that") is a modern Scottishism but has history in English to 13c.