Sunday, 23 January 2011

Sporting Etymologies (Part 2)

Following on from last week's look at the etymology of sporting names, here is the second and final part:

pelota - a game of Spanish origins, it is played by hitting a ball against the walls of three-sided court. The name is from the Spanish pella, itself from latin pila, 'ball'.

polo - with its origins in the east it is not surprising to find the word in Tibetan pu lu 'ball', although there is a Tibetan dialect called Balti which has polo as a word for 'ball'.

pool - was an early term used for billiards where these cue sports were played in a room where gamblers 'pooled' their money to bet on horseracing off-track.

racing - as so many sports involve racing it would be wrong to omit a word which came to English from Old Norse ras where 'running' was used in the sense of 'running water' and derived from the Proto-Germanic raes 'to rage'. It is not used as a noun in English before 1510 and for the first time as a verb around 1670.

rounders - the forerunner of baseball which originated in Ireland around the middle of the eighteenth century, the name self-explanatory.

rowing - as with 'racing' the origin of the name is obvious. The word can be traced back through almost every language to the Proto-Indo-European verb ere 'to row', predictably one of the earliest words.

rugby - almost everyone will know the story of the origins of rugby football, where one Matthew Webb Ellis was playing association football on the playing fields of Rugby school when he picked up the ball and ran with it. The sport took the name of the school (not the town) and later the World Cup of Rugby Union was named the Webb Ellis Trophy.

shooting - as with rowing this features a verb which can be traced back through many languages to the Proto-Indo-European skeud 'to chase, to throw, to project'.

skating - the skate was brought to England by the followers of Charles II at the Restoration in the seventeenth century. Hence the term comes from Middle Dutch schaetse, itself from Norman French esache 'stilt, trestle' and first seen as a verb by the end of the seventeenth century.

ski-ing - another winter sport which, as with skate, in English began as a noun. It is derived from Old Norse skith, also the origin of 'skid', and originally referred to 'a snowshoe'.

snooker - was a variation on billiards invented by British officers serving in India towards the end of the nineteenth century. The term is slang, not the modern 'snooker' meaning 'to put in a difficult position' but Victorian slang for 'newly joined cadet'. It is said to have been used for the game for it was so easy to fool the new cadets when teaching them the rules. It is claimed the man who first used the term was a certain Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain (not the man who later served as prime minister), who was serving in Jubbulpore with the Devonshire Regiment.

soccer - is derived from association football and, contrary to popular belief, was used in Britain many years before a competitive soccer ball had been kicked in the USA.

softball - a variation of baseball played, as the name suggests, with a larger, softer ball to prevent injury. The ball is also pitched using an underarm action and is played on a smaller diamond.

squash - is named from the ball, which does squash more than other balls.

swimming - the verb can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European swem meaning 'to be in motion'. Over the centuries it passed from one language to another where to was used in the sense 'hunt', 'motion', and 'chase' well before it applied solely to movement in water.

tennis - was originally called sphairistike, Greek meaning 'in playing the ball', named by its apparent inventor, Major Walter C. Wingfield and first played in Wales. The original game was played without a racket, tennis probably comes from tenez Old French for 'to receive, to take', which was once called out by the server as a warning to his opponent he was about to serve.

volleyball - clearly named from a volley being used in sporting terms where the ball is played before it hits the ground. The word volley comes from Middle French volee or 'flight'.

wrestling - an ancient sport with a name from the word wrest, itself from Proto-Germanic wraistijanan 'to bend, twist'.

yachting - features a comparatively recent word derived from Dutch jaght schip literally 'chasing ship'.

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