Idioms

    ball the jack, Slang.
    1. to act with speed.
    2. to stake everything on one attempt.
    carry the ball, to assume the responsibility; bear the burden: You can always count on him to carry the ball in an emergency.
    drop the ball, to make a mistake or miss an opportunity at a critical moment.
    keep the ball rolling, to continue or give renewed vigor to an activity already under way: When their interest lagged, he tried to keep the ball rolling.
    on the ball,
    1. alert and efficient or effective: If you don't get on the ball, you'll be fired.
    2. indicating intelligence or ability: The tests show your students don't have much on the ball. The new manager has a lot on the ball.
    play ball,
    1. to begin or continue playing a game.
    2. to start or continue any action.
    3. to work together; cooperate: union leaders suspected of playing ball with racketeers.
    run with the ball, to assume responsibility or work enthusiastically: If management approves the concept, we'll run with the ball.
    start the ball rolling, to put into operation; begin: The recreation director started the ball rolling by having all the participants introduce themselves.

Origin of ball

1
1175–1225; Middle English bal, balle < Old French < Germanic *ballaz; compare Old Norse bǫllr, Old High German bal, ballo, balla, German Ball, Dutch bal; perhaps akin to Latin follis leather bag; see ballock(s)
Related formsball·er, noun
Can be confusedbald balled bawled
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


British Dictionary definitions for ball up

Ball

noun

John . died 1381, English priest: executed as one of the leaders of the Peasants' Revolt (1381)

ball

1

noun

a spherical or nearly spherical body or massa ball of wool
a round or roundish body, either solid or hollow, of a size and composition suitable for any of various games: football, golf, billiards, etc
a ball propelled in a particular way in a sporta high ball
any of various rudimentary games with a ballto play ball
cricket a single delivery of the ball by the bowler to the batsman
baseball a single delivery of the ball by a pitcher outside certain limits and not swung at by the batter
  1. a solid nonexplosive projectile for a firearmCompare shell (def. 6)
  2. such projectiles collectively
any more or less rounded part or protuberancethe ball of the foot
slang a testicleSee balls
vet science another word for bolus
horticulture the hard mass of roots and earth removed with the rest of the plant during transplanting
ball of muscle Australian a very strong, fit, or forceful person
have the ball at one's feet to have the chance of doing something
keep the ball rolling to maintain the progress of a project, plan, etc
on the ball informal alert; informed
play ball informal to cooperate
set the ball rolling or start the ball rolling to open or initiate (an action, discussion, movement, etc)
the ball is in your court you are obliged to make the next move

verb

(tr) to make, form, wind, etc, into a ball or ballsto ball wool
(intr) to gather into a ball or balls
taboo, slang, mainly US to copulate (with)

Word Origin for ball

C13: from Old Norse böllr; related to Old High German balla, Italian palla French balle

usage

Sense 9 of this word was formerly considered to be taboo, and it was labelled as such in previous editions of Collins English Dictionary . However, it has now become acceptable in speech, although some older or more conservative people may object to its use

ball

2

noun

a social function for dancing, esp one that is lavish or formal
informal a very enjoyable time (esp in the phrase have a ball)

Word Origin for ball

C17: from French bal (n), from Old French baller (vb), from Late Latin ballāre to dance, from Greek ballizein
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

Word Origin and History for ball up

ball

n.1

"round object," Old English *beal, from or corresponding to Old Norse bollr "ball," from Proto-Germanic *balluz (cf. Old High German ballo, German Ball), from PIE root *bhel- (2) "to blow, inflate, swell" (see bole).

Meaning "testicle" is from early 14c. Ball of the foot is from mid-14c. A ball as an object in a sports game is recorded from c.1200; To have the ball "hold the advantage" is from c.1400. To be on the ball is 1912, from sports. Ball-point pen first recorded 1946. Ball of fire when first recorded in 1821 referred to "a glass of brandy;" as "spectacularly successful striver" it is c.1900.

ball

n.2

"dancing party," 1630s, from French, from Old French baller "to dance," from Late Latin ballare "to dance," from Greek ballizein "to dance, jump about" (see ballistics). Hence, "very enjoyable time," 1945, American English slang, perhaps back to 1930s in black slang.

ball

v.

1650s, "make into a ball," from ball (n.1). Sense of "to become like a ball" is 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ball up in Medicine

ball

[bôl]

n.

A spherical object or mass.
A bezoar.
A large pill or bolus.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with ball up

ball up

1

Roll something into a ball, as in She loved to knit and was always balling up her yarn. [Early 1800s]

2

Confuse or bungle, as in Jane got all balled up at the beginning of her speech, or Henry really balled up that exam. This term may come from the fact that when a horse is driven over soft or partly thawed snow, the snow becomes packed into icy balls on its hoofs, making it stumble. Another theory is that it alludes to the vulgar term balls for testicles. [First half of 1900s]

ball

In addition to the idioms beginning with ball

  • ball and chain
  • ball of fire
  • ball up

also see:

  • behind the eight ball
  • break one's balls
  • by the balls
  • carry the ball
  • crystal ball
  • drop the ball
  • eyeball to eyeball
  • get the ball rolling
  • have a ball
  • have one's eye on the ball
  • have someone by the balls
  • on the ball
  • play ball
  • put in mothballs
  • snowball's chance in hell
  • that's how the ball bounces
  • whole ball of wax
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.