ball 1 (bôl)
a. A spherical object or entity: a steel ball.
b. A spherical or almost spherical body: a ball of flame.
a. Any of various movable and round or oblong objects used in various athletic activities and games.
b. Such an object moving, thrown, hit, or kicked in a particular manner: a low ball; a fair ball.
c. A game, especially baseball or basketball, played with such an object.
d. A pitched baseball that does not pass through the strike zone and is not swung at by the batter.
a. A solid spherical or pointed projectile, such as one shot from a cannon.
b. Projectiles of this kind considered as a group.
4. A rounded part or protuberance, especially of the body: the ball of the foot.
5. Vulgar Slang
a. A testicle.
b. balls Courage, especially when reckless.
c. balls Great presumptuousness.
v. balled, ball·ing, balls
1. To form into a ball.
2. Vulgar Slang To have sexual intercourse with.
1. To become formed into a ball.
2. Vulgar Slang To have sexual intercourse.
To confuse; bungle.
have (someone) by the balls Vulgar Slang
To have control over someone; have someone at one's mercy.
on the ball Informal
1. Alert, competent, or efficient: a teacher who is really on the ball.
2. Relating to qualities, such as competence, skill, or knowledge, that are necessary for success: a manager who has a lot on the ball; a student who has nothing on the ball.
[Middle English bal, probably from Old English *beall; see bhel-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.