One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Any of various games of skill involving nine target holes, spots, etc.; specifically (a) a game in which players try to roll small balls into nine holes made in the ground, each hole having a separate scoring value; (b) a similar game played with a wooden bridge or board having nine holes or arches.
2British regional. A lamprey.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in New Custome. From nine + the plural of hole. With sense 1 compare German Nolochen, variant of Neun Löcher, lit. ‘nine holes’, three men's morris.
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