05 August 2023 / 5-Min Read / Translate↗
It seems to be generally agreed that the word "racquet" comes from Middle French word "raquette", an implement formed like a paddle apparently used in scraping the bottom of a ship (1388). By the 15th century this word was used to describe the game AND the implement of sports that hit balls, either against a wall (rackets, squash etc) or not (tennis, badminton). But it's not that simple, but it's not clear whether it was always referring to a game where the ball was hit with an implement OR the palm of the hand.
In addition, there does seem to be some belief that the French word was borrowed from an earlier English word, but the English word doesn't have proof it was used to describe the game or implement until after the French word. As you can see, it's pretty muddled. If you are interested in the etymology of the word, visit the OED's "racket" page.
To summarise the origin: We think it's probably French and it used a Q. But anybody familiar with writing of this period will know that consistent spelling was rare. Read the Wikipedia page for the spelling of William Shakespeare and to see how even he didn't spell it the same way very often.
Some sources will tell you that "racket" is British and "Racquet" is North American. I hate to say they are wrong, but I will say they are not completely right! It's true that North America seems to use the word "racquet" but it's also used in the UK too. A good example is the Bath & Racquets Club in central London (I coached there for a little while).
Equipment manufacturers seem to use the spelling most suited to their location. Head for example always uses "racquet" and Dunlop always uses "racket". But you can go to a large, well-known online retailer and see "Head rackets" and "Dunlop racquets", so it really is up to the person writing the text.
Perhaps the most important guide would be what different governing bodies use. You could then use that term when referring to sport in that region. Here are a few.
Professional Squash Association (PSA): This body runs the professional squash tour. I found examples of both "Racket" and "Racquet" on their site and it seems that they used the spelling from whoever the news cam from. A good example of this is when the reported on the World Sports Photography Awards: Racquet Sports category.
World Squash Federation (WSF): This body administers squash around the world. They control the rules, which the PSA follow, but alos have some minor changes, they specify the technical aspects of the game: courts, balls and rackets. Like the PSA both spellings can be found on the site, but for all official wording, "rackets" is used. For example, all through the rules "racket/s" is used.
Perhaps another way to look at this is to see what other languages, besides English, use. Like the governing bodies section, they might just copy on from each other if they don't have an original word. For example, all Romance languages (Based on Latin) use the Q.
Here are translations of the phrase "squash racket" in various languages:
Spanish: Raqueta de squash,
French: Raquette de squash,
Italian: Racchetta da squash,
Portuguese: Raquete de squash,
Russian: Ракетка для сквоша (Raketka dlya skvosha),
Chinese (Simplified): 壁球拍 (Bì qiú pāi),
Japanese: スカッシュラケット (Sukasshu raketto),
Korean: 스쿼시 라켓 (Seukwosi raeket),
Arabic: مضرب سكواش (Maḍrab sukwaṣh),
Hindi: स्क्वैश रैकेट (Skuvaiś raiket),
Turkish: Squash raketi,
Polish: Rakieta do squasha,
Greek: Ρακέτα σκουός (Rakéta skouós),
Hungarian: Squash ütő
Please note that translations may vary slightly depending on context and regional language differences.
If you are a native speaker of any of the above languages and notice an error, please contact me and I will correct it. In addition, if you are a native speaker of a language not shown above and would like me to add it, please contact me - my email address is at the bottom of the page.
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So, what is the difference between a racket, a bat and a padel? Let me start with my prejudices! For me, a racket needs to have strings or netting and a bat is solid. Clear examples of racket include tennis, real tennis, rackets, squash, badminton and racketball, all of which are played in the UK. Examples of a bat would be table tennis, baseball, cricket, rounders and from Hungary Oină (Yeah, I'd never heard of it either - sorry Oină players.)
BUT! And it's a big but, a lot of sports don't seem to follow my simple rule (shame on them). For example, plenty of table tennis players refer to their equipment as rackets. A quick search on the Table Tennis subreddit shows plenty of people calling them rackets. They also call them bats too.
The other popular sport that doesn't follow my rule is Padel. They nearly always refer to them as rackets. By the way, padel rackets can be EXPENSIVE. Watch this video to see the 480 Euro racket! But if you want a designer padel racket, then look no further than the £1,380 Prada Padel racket. Just like squash in the 1980s, Padel seems to attract designer labels.
Interestingly, the sport was originally called "Paddle Corcuera" from the Mexican businessman Enrique Corcuera who set up the first-ever padel court at his holiday home in Acapulco in 1969, and had been adapted from a game played on British cruise ships called "platform tennis" that used tennis rackets.
Exactly how it changed from tennis rackets to solid rackets is unclear, as is how the name changed from "paddle" to "padel". Perform a image web search for "paddle" and you will find results related to padel as well as water sports. So some people refer to "padel rackets" as "paddle rackets", but that might just be a mistake.
I thought it might be interesting to see what Google Trends shows, so I performed a few comparisons and searches. If you have a spare few minutes, it's a fun thing to do. You can compare how often a word was searched for and set some filters, for example by country and date.
In this first image below, you can see that "racket" is more popular worldwide than "racquet". As you can see, from around 2016, racket really starts to become much more popular. What fascinates me, but I haven't delved deeper, are the peaks and troughs. Got to be related to sports events or what's on the news, don't you think?
The second image shows "squash racket" versus "squash racquet" over the same time period and worldwide as well. What's quite sad is the obvious decline of both terms. Also, there's a significant drop for "squash racket", that could be related to the Covid pandemic. But again, those peaks and troughs match very closely.
Do you think that in another 20 years time, "racquets" will have died away? If I get time, I might do some more Google Trends comparison articles in the future.
Racquet" is ONLY used to talk abou the piece of equipment used in sports. However, "racket" has two other meanings. Firstly, it means "a lot of noise". For example, "HEY! Stop making a racket. I'm trying to sleep". The second other meaning is some sort of illegal, fraudulent scheme, enterprise, or activity. For example "In some countries gambling and alchohol are rackets".
You might already know that Squash, originally called "Squash Rackets", and descended from a game called "Rackets". I've written about Rackets before, but it makes me laugh every time I have to say a "rackets' racket".
Lastly on this, it's actually possible to call the game "racket" instead of "rackets", although I don't know if people do. Super Extra Lastly on this, I have played rackets once and it was fantastic. So if you ever get a chance, definitely take it.
It really doesn't matter, does it? Racket or Racquet, use what you want. Which do you use, and why?