third base


noun Baseball.

the third in counterclockwise order of the bases from home plate.
the playing position of the fielder covering the area of the infield near this base.

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Origin of third base

An Americanism dating back to 1835–45
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

What else does third base mean?

Content warning: the following content includes references to sexual activity.

The expression (getting or going to) third base is slang for sexual contact with genitals, especially when it happens for the first time between two people.

The expression (being) born on third base refers to having advantages in life by virtue of being born into wealth and other privileges.

How is third base pronounced?

[ thurd beys ]

What are some other words related to third base?

first base
second base
home run
white privilege

Where does third base come from?

The sport of baseball has long provided metaphors in everyday speech, as in Her presentation really knocked it out of the park! 

In the sports of baseball and softball, a player must touch first base, second base, third base, and then home plate to score a run. Third base, in this context, has been recorded since the 1840s.

Sexual slang adopted baseball’s progressive bases as a metaphor for, well, increasing levels of sexual intimacy—leading up to “scoring.”

Getting to first base (recorded in the 1920s) involves kissing and caressing. Second base (recorded in the 1930s) involves sexual contact above the waist. Third base (recorded in the 1940s) involves sexual contact below the waist. A home run is intercourse.

The sexual “base system” has historically been spoken of in terms of how far a young man got with a girl. Yes, this frame is heteronormative and can be seen as objectifying women, but the base system has become much more inclusive.

One notable early use of the sexual slang third base comes from the influential writer Norman Mailer’s 1948 novel The Naked and the Dead: “I got to third base last night, I’ll make her yet. Oh, what a dame.”

Third base also features in the expression (being) born on third base, meaning someone was “born into wealth and privilege.” This expression usually implies that such a person is completely oblivious to the advantages it gave them or believes they earned the advantages all on their own. The critique of the expression is that it is a lot easier to become successful and powerful in life when you came into this world from, say, an affluent, well-connected family or have a rich inheritance—not to mention other social privileges involving race and gender (e.g., white male).

Etymologist Barry Popik has traced the saying “a genius is one who seems a wonder because he was born on third base” to the 1930s. The more familiar expression, born on third base and thinks he hit a triple dates to the 1980s, popularized in part by football coach and player Barry Switzer in 1986.

How is third base used in real life?

Talking about getting to third base can sound very juvenile, the term being associated with the youthful time of sexual exploration and discovery.

The sexual base system has become so familiar in popular culture that some people creatively recast what the bases represent within modern love and romance.

Celebrities and public figures may get called out for being born on third base as a way to show how coming from wealth gives one a real leg up on life.

And of course, third base sees plenty of use in actual ballparks, too.

More examples of third base:

“[Chuck Collins’s’] latest book, ‘Born on Third Base,’ is in service of his mission to change the stories we tell about wealth and privilege to more accurate ones and begin to foster empathy between the rich and the poor in order to reverse inequalities.”
—Megan Wildhood, Real Change, July 2017

Example sentences from the Web for third base