Soccer geeks often refer to the playing field as “the pitch,” and I, a lover of all things soccer, would like to explain the term. Soccer season is wrapping up, so I promise this will be the last soccerly word nerd word for a while.
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After I explored the etymology of hat trick and nutmeg, my friend Jean wanted to learn more about the origin of “pitch”. She consulted Shane, a soccer enthusiast from England, and I consulted “On the Pitch”, a website dedicated to all things youth soccer. Here’s what we found.
For centuries, the verb “pitch” meant “to fit firmly in place”, like pitching stakes into the ground for a tent. (e.g. “pitching a tent”). It comes from the Middle English pichen, meaning to drive or fix firmly. Since the end of the 17th century, the process of pitching stumps into the ground to set up a game of cricket has been called “pitching the stumps”. By the late 1800s, people started using “pitch” as a noun to describe a playing area. By 1900, pitch was used specifically for a football (or soccer) playing area.
In England, the term “field” usually refers to an open space, as in a pasture or grassy area, not a playing area.
Thanks Jean and Shane for your help!
Word Nerd Workout
Pitch has a ton of meanings. Can you share some others?
Thanks for getting nerdy with me today!