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Origin of shuttlecock

First recorded in 1515–25; shuttle + cock1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a shuttlecock?

A shuttlecock is the object that’s volleyed back and forth over the net with rackets in the sports of badminton and battledore. It’s not a ball—it consists of a cork head and a feathered cone.

It can also be called a shuttle, birdie, or bird.

The feathered part of the shuttlecock may consist of actual feathers (usually from a goose) or synthetic materials. Traditional shuttlecocks weigh about 5 grams (.18 ounces) and have 16 feathers attached to the top.

The shuttlecock is best-known for its use in badminton, but it is also used in the lesser-known sport of battledore, which is sometimes called battledore and shuttlecock.

The word shuttlecock is sometimes also used in a figurative way to refer to something moved back and forth, or as a verb meaning to move back and forth or send something to and fro—a reference to the way that a shuttlecock is volleyed back and forth.

Example: The movements of the shuttlecock are much different than those of a ball and make badminton a dynamic game. 

Where does shuttlecock come from?

The first records of the word shuttlecock come from the 1500s. The word shuttle—which is used to refer to other objects characterized by back-and-forth movement—derives from the Old English scytel, meaning “dart” or “arrow.” The ending cock is a reference to a bird (likely due to the use of feathers, or to the way that the shuttlecock flies through the air, or both).

The origins of the shuttlecock and the sports in which it’s used are ancient. The game that became known as battledore and shuttlecock has been played for thousands of years, and badminton is believed to have derived from it (via the related Indian sport called poona).

The word battledore in battledore and shuttlecock refers to the racket. But in ancient Europe and Asia, an object similar to what we know as a shuttlecock was kicked or batted back and forth with the hands—rackets and a net were introduced later.

Did you know … ?

What are some synonyms for shuttlecock?

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

What are some words that often get used in discussing shuttlecock?

How is shuttlecock used in real life?

The shuttlecock is best known for its use in badminton. It’s also commonly called a shuttle for short or a birdie.

Try using shuttlecock!

True or False? 

All shuttlecocks are made with real feathers.

How to use shuttlecock in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for shuttlecock

/ (ˈʃʌtəlˌkɒk) /

a light cone consisting of a cork stub with feathered flights, struck to and fro in badminton and battledoreOften shortened to: shuttle
anything moved to and fro, as in an argument
to move or cause to move to and fro, like a shuttlecock

Word Origin for shuttlecock

C16: from shuttle + cock 1
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