Tennis ball

What is the origin of ‘love’ meaning ‘nil’ in tennis?

There are a number of theories relating to the origin of the word ‘love’ in tennis, but there are two which seem most commonplace.

The first theory is that it the word ‘love’ compares to the French word l’oeuf, meaning ‘an egg’. This is due to the fact that the oval shape of the egg is somewhat comparable to the number zero, or a nought (0). However , this seems unlikely.

The second (and possibly more plausible theory) is that it has been adapted from the phrase 'to play for love (of the game)’. The idea here is that if a person is playing purely for the ‘love’ of the game then they are less likely to be getting paid for it, earning nothing/zero/nil.

However these are just theories. Our dictionaries are constantly revising their entries, so if you know of any evidence that supports either theory, or even an entirely different theory, then please let us know through either of our social media channels (twitter, Facebook), or through the contact us page.


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