- a solid, usually spherical projectile for a cannon, rifle, pistol, etc., as distinguished from a shell.
- projectiles, especially bullets, collectively.
- boldness; courage; brashness.
- nonsense (often used as an interjection).
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- ball ammunition,
- ball and chain,
- ball and ring,
- ball bearing,
- ball boy
- to act with speed.
- to stake everything on one attempt.
- alert and efficient or effective: If you don't get on the ball, you'll be fired.
- 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.
- to begin or continue playing a game.
- to start or continue any action.
- to work together; cooperate: union leaders suspected of playing ball with racketeers.
Origin of ball1
- a solid nonexplosive projectile for a firearmCompare shell (def. 6)
- such projectiles collectively
Word Origin for ball
Word Origin for ball
"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.
"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.
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.
drop the ball
Make an error; miss an opportunity. For example, She really dropped the ball when she forgot to call back, or He dropped the ball, turning down their offer. This expression comes from sports where a player who fails to catch a ball is charged with an error. Its use for more general kinds of mistakes dates from about 1950.
In addition to the idioms beginning with ball
- ball and chain
- ball of fire
- ball up
- 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