ball (n.1)

"round object, compact spherical body," also "a ball used in a game," c. 1200, probably from an unrecorded Old English *beal, *beall (evidenced by the diminutive bealluc "testicle"), or from cognate Old Norse bollr "ball," from Proto-Germanic *balluz (source also of Dutch bal, Flemish bal, Old High German ballo, German Ball), from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell."

Meaning "testicle" is from early 14c. (compare ballocks). Ball of the foot is from mid-14c. Meaning "rounded missile used in warfare" is from late 14c. A ball as an object in a sports game is recorded from c. 1200; meaning "a game played with a ball" is from mid-14c. Baseball sense of "pitch that does not cross the plate within the strike zone" is by 1889, probably short for high ball, low ball, etc.

Ball-point pen is by 1946. Ball of fire when first recorded in 1821 referred to "a glass of brandy;" as "spectacularly successful striver" it is c. 1900. Many phrases are from sports: To have the ball "hold the advantage" is from c. 1400. To be on the ball is from 1912; to keep (one's) eye on the ball in the figurative sense is by 1907, probably ultimately on golf, where it was an oft-repeated item of advice. Figurative use of ball in (someone's) court is by 1956, from tennis.

The head must necessarily be steady, for it is most important that you should keep your eye fixedly on the ball from the moment that the club-head is lifted from the ground until the ball is actually struck. "Keep your eye on the ball," should be your companion text to "Slow back." [Horace G. Hutchinson, "Hints on the Game of Golf," 1886]

Once a meeting is over, someone will be expected to do something. Make sure it is someone else. This is known as keeping the ball in their court. [Shepherd Mead, "How to Get Rich in TV Without Really Trying," 1956]

ball (n.2)

"dancing party, social assembly for dancing," 1630s, from French, from Old French baller "to dance," from Late Latin ballare "to dance," from Greek ballizein "to dance, jump about," literally "to throw one's body" (ancient Greek dancing being highly athletic), from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach." Extended meaning "very enjoyable time" is American English slang from 1945, perhaps 1930s in African-American vernacular.

ball (v.)

1650s, "make into a ball," from ball (n.1). Intransitive sense of "become like a ball, form a compact cluster" is from 1713; that of "to copulate" is first recorded 1940s in jazz slang, either from the noun sense of "testicle" or "enjoyable time" (from ball (n.2)). Related: Balled; balling.

updated on August 17, 2019

Definitions of ball from WordNet
ball (n.)
round object that is hit or thrown or kicked in games;
the ball travelled 90 mph on his serve
the mayor threw out the first ball
the ball rolled into the corner pocket
ball (n.)
a solid projectile that is shot by a musket;
they had to carry a ramrod as well as powder and ball
Synonyms: musket ball
ball (n.)
an object with a spherical shape;
a ball of fire
Synonyms: globe / orb
ball (n.)
the people assembled at a lavish formal dance;
the ball was already emptying out before the fire alarm sounded
ball (n.)
one of the two male reproductive glands that produce spermatozoa and secrete androgens;
she kicked him in the balls and got away
Synonyms: testis / testicle / orchis / ballock / bollock / nut / egg
ball (n.)
a spherical object used as a plaything;
he played with his rubber ball in the bathtub
ball (n.)
a compact mass;
a ball of mud caught him on the shoulder
Synonyms: clod / glob / lump / clump / chunk
ball (n.)
a lavish dance requiring formal attire;
Synonyms: formal
ball (n.)
a more or less rounded anatomical body or mass;
he stood on the balls of his feet
the ball at the base of the thumb
ball (n.)
a ball game played with a bat and ball between two teams of nine players; teams take turns at bat trying to score runs;
there was a desire for National League ball in the area
play ball!
Synonyms: baseball / baseball game
ball (n.)
a pitch that is not in the strike zone;
he threw nine straight balls before the manager yanked him
ball (v.)
form into a ball by winding or rolling;
ball wool
Ball (n.)
United States comedienne best known as the star of a popular television program (1911-1989);
Synonyms: Lucille Ball
From, not affiliated with etymonline.