Cricket etymology: cricce, creckett, cricke, crique!

I hold quite an interest in the English language, and in language itself – so I was pleased to find the Online Etymology Dictionary where I could look up “cricket.” Fascinating reading:

“game,” 1598, apparently from O.Fr. criquet “goal post, stick,” perhaps from M.Du./M.Flem. cricke “stick, staff.” Sense of “fair play” is first recorded 1851, on notion of “cricket as it should be played.”

I suppose the “It’s not cricket” phrase came in after 1851 – but, more interesting is just how old our game is. 1598. Around the time when William Shakespeare was writing the 16th century equivalent of Harry Potter (Othello!?).

This has made me, very briefly, look up cricket history – and I’ve unearthed two gems, one at Wikipedia and the other here. Brief summaries…

The origins of cricket are obscure, and there are several theories on how it started. One is that shepherds used to play it – one would stand in front of the wicket gate to the sheep fold, and another would bowl a stone or something at him, and he would have to hit it with his crook, which was known as a cricce.

So already there are some curious reasons behind “cricket,” but the general consensus is that a crook, cricce, creck, crique etc is a stick. In Old English, cricc is a staff (guessing that’s a shepherd’s “leaning” stick) – in Flemish, krick(e) means a stick.


In 1598 there was a dispute over a school’s ownership of a plot of land in which a 59-year old coroner, John Derrick, testified that he and his school friend had played “creckett” at the site fifty years earlier.

One of the most interesting bits is the start of Test Cricket. Can you beleive this?

The first ever cricket game played between teams representing their nations was between the USA and Canada in 1844. The match was played at Elysian Field in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Maybe if the Americans and Canadians knew this, it could spark some interest again. In fact, Jagadish wrote about USA cricket today – as did I, here.

Back to the etymology, and Hat Tricks. As you’ll know, although hat-tricks occur in most sports these days, it is in cricket where they first started…and here’s how:

c.1877, originally from cricket, “taking three wickets on three bowls;” extended to other sports (esp. ice hockey) c.1909. Allegedly because it entitled the bowler to receive a hat from his club commemorating the feat (or entitled him to pass the hat for a cash collection), but also infl. by the image of a conjurer pulling things from his hat (though hat trick in this sense is not attested until 1886).

Brilliant! I could go on and on, but I’ll leave the rest for you to read. Here and here and here. If you know any other historical gems, please leave a comment.