love (the tennis term)

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love (the tennis term)

Post by Archived Topic » Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:05 pm

Does anyone have the derivation of the word "love" as it is used in tennis?

Not the one of the French and l'oeuf (egg) - but one that is beleivable.

Alex Phillips - U.S.A.
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what is the origin of the term love meaning zero in tennis?

- Christine
Edmonton, AB, Canada
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love (the tennis term)

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:20 pm

Alex: If you click your heels three times and wish hard enough (ruby red slippers are optional)you will come to believe it.

Tennis came to England from France (literally and figuratively a court game). The language of the courts was French, and not surprisingly the scoring and terms for tennis came from the French. Nothing, or no score was said to be "rien," or "l'oeuf" (literally "the egg" since the score of zero resembled an egg shape). We have the same in English only refer to it as a goose egg. The word "l'oeuf" pronounced in French sounds like "luff" and eventually was bastardized into sounding like the English word "love." Where are our francophones in all this?? Au secours!
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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love (the tennis term)

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:34 pm

Excellent explanation ! I would like to add that "tennis" comes from "tenez" ( imperative form of the French verb "tenir" )which I would translate in that case by "here you are" or something similar.
Reply from Hélène GOMEZ (Brest - France)

The French origin ( jeu de paume )seems to be the most appropriate explanation in as far as tennis comes from the French word "tenez" ( plural imperative from "tenir" ).

This has already been discussed. However, there seem to be two schools of thought on this one. The previous answer that 'love' is a corruption of the French word 'l'oeuf' (the egg), based on the supposed resemblance between an egg and a zero, is popular, but is rubbished by certain sources. The alternative theory put forward is that the term is derived from the phrase `to play for love' (that is, for the love of the game i.e. to play for nothing)- possibly a bit of sarcasm on the fact that no score has been achieved.

Another theory I just stumbled across is that 'love' comes from the Dutch/Flemish 'luf' (honour) ... a similar principle to the 'playing for nothing' theory, but with a different twist.

The jury seems to still be out on this issue - so make up your own mind which you favour.

Simple Simon

Christine, According to the sources I checked most etymologists seem to feel that the “l’oeuf” (egg for zero) explanation is the less likely one.

Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins

LOVE: A person who fails to score in tennis might be said to be playing for the love of the game. According to this theory, which is widely supported, ‘love,’ for ‘zero in tennis,’ comes from the expression ‘play for the money or play for love [nothing].” The idea here is similar to that behind the word ‘amateur,’ which comes from the Latin ‘amare,’ to love, and strictly speaking means a person who loves a game or subject. But there is another explanation for the term ‘love’ in tennis, an expression used from at least 1742. ‘Love,’ for ‘goose egg,’ or ‘nothing,’ may have been born when the English imported the game of tennis from France. Because a zero resembles an egg, the French used the expression “l’oeuf,’ egg, for ‘no score.’ English players, in mispronouncing the French expression, may have gradually changed it to ‘love.’

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable

LOVE: In the sense ‘nil score in tennis,’ as ‘forty-love’ (40-0), ‘love-all’ (0-0), ‘love’ probably comes from the phrase ‘to play for love,’ meaning to play for the love of the game, i.e. without stakes. It is not likely to be a corruption of “l’oeuf,” the egg, as sometimes stated, on the grounds that a figure ‘0’ resembles an egg. In cricket, however, ‘out for a duck,’ said of a batsman dismissed without having scored any runs, derives from “duck’s egg,’ from the similarity between the egg and a large figure ‘0’ on the scoreboard.
<1742 “If your Adversary is 6 or 7 LOVE, and you are to lead.”—‘Whist’ by Hoyle, i. page 13>

<1780 “We are not told how, or by what means Six LOVE comes to mean Six to nothing.”—“Gentleman’s Magazine,” L. page 322/2>

<1797 “As the games are won, so they are marked and called; as one game LOVE, two games to one, &c.”—‘Encyclopedia Britannica’ (edition 3), XVIII. page 380/2>
(Oxford English Dictionary)

Ken G
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