Saturday, May 31, 2014


Gary from Cross Village, Michigan, called Words to the Wise to ask why the implement used to strike the ball in baseball is called a BAT. The basic reason is that the word was already long in use in a somewhat similar stick-and-ball game, cricket. It was ripe for borrowing.

Ultimately, it came from a Latin verb that meant to strike. As I mentioned on an earlier program, bat is one of those words that has wildly unconnected meanings, principally because an identical spelling evolved from completely different sources.

·      Flying mammals  [Scandinavian]
    A sports stick or club   [French]
·      A pack-saddle   [French]
·      A spree or binge   [unknown]
·      The colloquial speech of a foreign country  [Hindi]

Other implements used in stick-and-ball games include the following:

·      STICK:  [Latin, to spur on]
·      CLUB:  [Germanic/Scandinavian, a mass of wood]
·      PADDLE: [ Latin, a spade-like implement]
·      RACQUET:  [French, palm-like implement]
·      MALLET:  [French, hammer]

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

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