have a ball

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Enjoy oneself enormously, as in It was a great trip—I had a ball. This idiom uses the noun ball in the sense of “a gala dance.” [Slang; 1920s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


What does have a ball mean?

Have a ball is a figurative phrase that means to enjoy oneself greatly, as in My kids love Disneyland, so they will have a ball when we go there this summer. 

Generally, you’ll use have a ball while you’re enjoying yourself, so you’ll say that you’re having a ball. But you can also use the phrase when you’re looking forward to an activity (We’ll have a ball at the arcades!) or later, when the event is over (We had a ball at the pool today.)

A literal sense of have a ball means to hold a ball or have control over a ball, as in Maddie scored a lot of goals during the soccer game because she had the ball a lot. As you’d imagine, this sense is less common.

Example: Anita had a ball at laser tag and can’t wait to play again.

Where does have a ball come from?

The first records of the phrase have a ball come from around 1879. It comes from American slang. The word ball is used in the sense of a fancy party with dancing, such as the one attended by Cinderella.

Have a ball is more likely to be used in informal writing and speech, such as social media posts, or less serious news reports. The phrases have fun or enjoy oneself are generally preferred in formal writing, such as essays for a class or a report for your boss.

Did you know … ?

What are some synonyms for have a ball?

What are some words that share a root or word element with have a ball

What are some words that often get used in discussing have a ball?

How is have a ball used in real life?

Have a ball is a commonly used phrase that means to enjoy yourself.

Try using have a ball!

Is have a ball used correctly in the following sentence?

My friends were having a ball at the party and couldn’t wait to leave because it was so boring.

How to use have a ball in a sentence