World Wide Words logo

Golf

Q From Damian D Reese: I received this email today and I can’t find anything to disprove it yet: ‘In Scotland, a new game was invented. It was entitled Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden, and thus the word golf entered into the English language’. What do you say?

A That’s an excellent example of a kind of inventiveness that is very common. It seems to turn up especially often in a series of e-mail pieces that circulate eternally online.

Claims that word origins are acronyms are almost always spurious (other well-known examples are said — incorrectly — to be derived from the initial letters of “Constable On Patrol”, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”, “Port Out, Starboard Home”, and “To Insure Promptness”). In fact, there’s no known example of a word being generated as a acronym before the beginning of the twentieth century (and they were rare until the inter-war years).

It’s easy to refute such suggestions by a look at a dictionary, though in this case the process may not enlighten you much, since the true origin of golf is unknown. There is a Scots word gowf for a blow or slap, but the experts think this probably comes from the game, rather than being its source. The name of the game may be related to a Dutch word kolf for a club or bat.

Page created 5 Jan. 2002

Support World Wide Words and keep this site alive.

Donate by selecting your currency and clicking the button.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you.

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon USA

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-gol1.htm
Last modified: 5 January 2002.