Etymology
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tennis (n.)

mid-14c., most likely from Anglo-French tenetz "hold! receive! take!," from Old French tenez, imperative of tenir "to hold, receive, take" (see tenet), which was used as a call from the server to his opponent. The original version of the game (a favorite sport of medieval French knights) was played by striking the ball with the palm of the hand, and in Old French was called la paulme, literally "the palm," but to an onlooker the service cry would naturally seem to identify the game. Century Dictionary says all of this is "purely imaginary."

The use of the word for the modern game is from 1874, short for lawn tennis, which originally was called sphairistike (1873), from Greek sphairistike (tekhnē) "(skill) in playing at ball," from the root of sphere. It was invented, and named, by Maj. Walter C. Wingfield and first played at a garden party in Wales, inspired by the popularity of badminton.

The name 'sphairistike,' however, was impossible (if only because people would pronounce it as a word of three syllables to rhyme with 'pike') and it was soon rechristened. [Times of London, June 10, 1927]

Tennis ball attested from mid-15c.; tennis court from 1560s; tennis elbow from 1883; tennis shoes from 1887.

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racquet (n.)

"handled instrument to strike the ball in tennis, etc.," c. 1500, probably extended from earlier racket "tennis-like game played with open hand" (late 14c.), from Old French rachette, requette, rechete, resquette (Modern French raquette) "racket for hitting; the palm of the hand," which is of uncertain origin.

Perhaps it comes via Italian racchetta or Spanish raqueta, both often said to be from Arabic rāhat, a form of rāha "palm of the hand," but this has been doubted. Compare French jeu de paume "tennis," literally "play with the palm of the hand," and compare tennis.

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*ten- 
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to stretch," with derivatives meaning "something stretched, a string; thin."

It forms all or part of: abstain; abstention; abstinence; abstinent; atelectasis; attend; attenuate; attenuation; baritone; catatonia; catatonic; contain; contend; continue; detain; detente; detention; diatonic; distend; entertain; extend; extenuate; hypotenuse; hypotonia; intend; intone (v.1) "to sing, chant;" isotonic; lieutenant; locum-tenens; maintain; monotony; neoteny; obtain; ostensible; peritoneum; pertain; pertinacious; portend; pretend; rein; retain; retinue; sitar; subtend; sustain; tantra; telangiectasia; temple (n.1) "building for worship;" temple (n.2) "flattened area on either side of the forehead;" temporal; tenable; tenacious; tenacity; tenant; tend (v.1) "to incline, to move in a certain direction;" tendency; tender (adj.) "soft, easily injured;" tender (v.) "to offer formally;" tendon; tendril; tenement; tenesmus; tenet; tennis; tenon; tenor; tense (adj.) "stretched tight;" tensile; tension; tensor; tent (n.) "portable shelter;" tenterhooks; tenuous; tenure; tetanus; thin; tone; tonic.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit tantram "loom," tanoti "stretches, lasts," tanuh "thin," literally "stretched out;" Persian tar "string;" Lithuanian tankus "compact," i.e. "tightened;" Greek teinein "to stretch," tasis "a stretching, tension," tenos "sinew," tetanos "stiff, rigid," tonos "string," hence "sound, pitch;" Latin tenere "to hold, grasp, keep, have possession, maintain," tendere "to stretch," tenuis "thin, rare, fine;" Old Church Slavonic tento "cord;" Old English þynne "thin."
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racket (n.2)
"handled paddle or netted bat used in tennis, etc.;" see racquet.
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seed (v.)

late 14c., sēden, "to flower, flourish; produce seed;" mid-15c., "to sow (the ground) with seed," from seed (n.).

The meaning "remove the seeds from" is by 1904. Sporting (originally tennis) sense is by 1898, from the notion of "spreading" certain players' names so as to ensure they will not meet early in a tournament. The noun in this sense is attested by 1924.

There is another question of tennis custom, if not tennis law, that has been agitated a good deal of late, and which still remains unsatisfactory, and this is the methods used in drawing the competitors in tournaments. The National Lawn Tennis Association prescribes no particular style for drawing. but the Bagnall-Wilde system is that used almost universally in open events. Several years ago, it was decided to "seed" the best players through the championship draw, and this was done for two or three years under protest from Dr. Dwight. ["Tennis Rules That Need Amendment," American Lawn Tennis, Jan. 13, 1898]

Related: Seeded; seeding. Late Old English had sædian, sedian.

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serve (n.)
1680s, in sports (tennis, etc.), from serve (v.).
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ball-boy (n.)

"boy who retrieves balls that go out of play during a game or match," 1896, in tennis, from ball (n.1) + boy. By 1955 in baseball. Ball-girl in tennis is by 1953.

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lob (v.)
"send up in a slow, high arc," 1869, of artillery shells; 1875 of tennis strokes, of uncertain origin, perhaps somehow from some sense in lob (n.). Earlier the verb meant "to throw slowly or gently" in bowling (1824) Related: Lobbed; lobbing. The noun in the "high, arcing throw or hit" sense (originally in tennis) is from 1875, from the verb.
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volley (v.)
1590s, "discharge in a volley," from volley (n.). Sporting sense (originally in tennis) of "to return the ball before it has hit the ground" is from 1819. Related: Volleyed; volleying.
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ace (v.)

"to score" in sports, 1922, in tennis, from ace (n.). This probably is the source of the student slang sense of "get high marks" (1959). Related: Aced; acing.

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