Word for Wednesday: Tennis

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Our Word for Wednesday theme for June is sports

The Spellzone dictionary defines sport as ‘an active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition’. The word dates to the early-fifteenth century when it meant ‘pleasant pastime’. Sport was a shortening of the Anglo-French ‘disport’ meaning ‘activity that offers amusement or reaction’. 

Last we looked at the word badminton, and today’s word of the week is tennis

Tennis is a game played with rackets by two or four players who hit a ball back and forth over a net that divides the court.

The word tennis entered English in the mid-fourteenth century and most likely comes from the Anglo-French ‘tenetz’ which means ‘hold! receive! take!’. ‘Tenetz’ comes from the Old French ‘tenir’, a call from the server to his opponent during a game. 

Early players – French knights – used their palms to strike a ball in a game called ‘la paulme’, but the game we know today was invented in 1873 by Walter C. Wingfield who was inspired by the popularity of badminton. It was first played at a garden party in Wales. Though this game was originally called 'sphairisticke' (from the Greek ‘sphairistike (tekhnÄ“)’ which means  ‘(skill in) playing at ball’ and is also the root of the word 'sphere'), it was soon renamed due the difficulty people had with pronouncing it. The name tennis in relation to this particular game was used from 1874. 

10 Jun 2020
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