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[ten-is] /ˈtɛn ɪs/
a game played on a rectangular court by two players or two pairs of players equipped with rackets, in which a ball is driven back and forth over a low net that divides the court in half.
Compare lawn tennis.
Origin of tennis
1350-1400; Middle English tenetz, ten(e)ys < Anglo-French: take!, imperative plural of tenir to hold, take, receive, apparently used as a server's call Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tennis
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "There was one around last night," the tennis champion insisted.

    The Innocent Adventuress Mary Hastings Bradley
  • And all because I had refused to pay for a tennis racket and a few other things.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug Joseph C. Lincoln
  • His calls and invitations for rides and tennis and golf were more frequent than ever.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug Joseph C. Lincoln
  • I don't know what your taste in tennis flannels may be, but I hope it is good.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug Joseph C. Lincoln
  • He does not play outdoor games; no golf, tennis, but little walking.

    Herbert Hoover Vernon Kellogg
British Dictionary definitions for tennis


  1. a racket game played between two players or pairs of players who hit a ball to and fro over a net on a rectangular court of grass, asphalt, clay, etc See also lawn tennis, real tennis, court tennis, table tennis
  2. (as modifier): tennis court, tennis racket
Word Origin
C14: probably from Anglo-French tenetz hold (imperative), from Old French tenir to hold, from Latin tenēre
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tennis

mid-14c., most likely from Anglo-French tenetz "hold! receive! take!," from Old French tenez, imperative of tenir "to hold, receive, take," 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.

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 (tekhne) "(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]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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