Etymology: The Word Gaming (And Gamble)

The word gaming seems to have come over from English. With the rise of video games and smartphones, we suddenly said ‘we are going to game’. Instead of ‘ playing or playing a game ‘. But no matter how English it seems now, the word gaming has its origin in the Netherlands.

Around our era, several peoples and tribes lived in the north and west of Europe. They all spoke roughly the same language, both literally and figuratively. Figuratively because they all had the Romans as their enemy. And literally because they spoke a language we now call the Germanic language.

The Frisian language

There was a difference in the Germanic language, depending on the region where it was pronounced slightly differently. Because communication was only done verbally. One of the distinctive languages ​​was Frisian. Around 600 this language began to develop as an independent language.

That did not happen in the area we now know as Friesland . The land of the Frisians stretched from Northern Belgium to the Zeeland islands, along the entire coast to southwestern Denmark. When the Frisians played or had fun, they used the word gaming or actually game.

In the English language

How did that word get into English? The English language developed from about the year 400. Germanic tribes, especially from central Europe, moved to England and took their language with them. On the island those peoples babbled their own language with it.

Gradually there was more exchange of words. From Northern Europe mainly through wars. French words were adopted because they were ‘more elegant’ than English. Even the English considered the English language a bit of a slum language. That only changed from the 16th century, after Shakespeare , for example , showed that you could also write beautiful stories with it.

The word gaming

So it happened that the English at a certain point also took over the word gaming from the Frisians, those people on the Dutch coast. They put it in their gibberish, Old English, around 1200, according to most etymologists. The meaning remained the same, have fun, have fun and do nice things.

It is fair to say that the word gaming did not just come into the Frisian language. It gradually grew into their own distinctive Germanic language. And that happened with the non-Frisian Danes, the Norwegians and the Germans too. The Danes also became gaming and the Norwegians and Germans gaman.

Having fun together

In that Norwegian and German we see the old Germanic language. That was because it had the prefix go before coming together with the word that came after it. In this case that is the word mann, which means man or person. Gaman thus meant something like the gathering of persons. In the different languages ​​it took on its own meaning. As said, the Frisians emphasized playing and having fun in general, so doing fun things together.

Although the old Frisians used the word game, an ‘n’ soon arrived. And about the same time as the English took over the word the n disappeared again, and sometimes even the and. The independent English word game, according to some linguists, originated from a mistake. Some English thought it was a suffix.

Variations and derivations

As a result of that mistake, there were many variations, puns and derivations in their language from 1200 onwards. They soon used the word game for competitions. In the 13th century it was about athletics and games that you played together, such as chess and backgammon. In that last word you probably recognize the Norwegian and German gaman. So that’s right, it is one of the derivations.

The noun gaming (being together) also got a verb form in English. This can be seen for the first time in texts from 1400 onwards. The ‘to game’ then means something like playing at a ‘game’.

The word gamble

Interestingly here on OnlineCasinoGround are the words gamble and gambling. These are also derivatives of the word gaming. In 1400 both the noun game and the verb to game are known. With the emergence of games of chance such as roulette in the 17th century, a new word is needed. A word for games with a risk, which are mainly played secretly.

That word was not chosen just like that. The basis of new words is almost always in the spoken language. This is also the case with gamble and gambling.

Crook language

In the ‘slum language’, as we called old English, many new words came from the bargoens. You could describe bargains as slum language, crook language or language that arises from flat talk. In the beginning, perhaps by scrambling Germanic words. Later by doing that with English words.

According to some unofficial statements, flat talk has resulted in b in English words. That gave you words like humble, fumble and scramble. And so a derivative of the word gaming (game and to game) became gamble. From there it is a small step to gambling . Simply add the suffix ‘ing’ in the English language to indicate the performance of something.

The word gaming in video games

The word gamble thus came about around the advent of roulette to illegal casinos in London and other major English cities (some say it was a century earlier). At that time more derivatives around the word gaming came into use, such as gaming house for such an illegal playhouse.

The word gaming in video games is Dutch. It is a habit that increased strongly after the Second World War, the adoption of English words into Dutch. With the advent of video games around 1980, the Dutch conveniently reduced playing a ‘video game’ to gaming. Later the English also started doing this themselves, but not yet officially.

More information

  • Why slum language? The first Germanic peoples that made the crossing to England were of course not the richest or the citizens who were well off. There was almost always something going on with peoples and individuals making a major move. They were persecuted, poor or thought the grass was greener elsewhere.
  • How did English become a world language. That started in the 16th century. English sailors, like the Dutch, went to conquer the world. In 1770 they took possession of Australia, discovered by a Dutchman in 1606, as a prison camp for their own English. In other places they founded colonies. Around 1900, the British Empire dominated over a quarter of the known world at that time. Instead of adopting language from others, they brought their own language to Asia, Africa and America.
  • Another explanation for the word gamble is that it comes from Gambol. That means something like playful walking, like skipping. According to linguists, the explanation is incorrect and the confusion stems from the identical pronunciation of the words.

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