Cricket a game of sticks, stumps or stools

There are two meanings of the word cricket in English, the game and the insect. The words are mostly unrelated to each other. The word for the insect comes from Old French criquer meaning to creak or rattle and is imitative of the sound that a cricket makes.

The word, cricket, for the game has a more uncertain history. It seems to have been derived from a group of related words with similar meanings:

  • Old French, criquet, meaning a kind of club, goal-post, or stick.
  • Middle Dutch or Flemish, krick(e), meaning a stick or staff.
  • Old English cricc or cryce (meaning a crutch or staff).

One explanation of the word’s origin suggests the French word, criquet, may derive from the Flemish word, krickstoel. It was a long low stool for kneeling in church, which resembled the low wicket, using only two stumps, that was used in early cricket. There is an interesting contrast with the word, wicket, which dates from early 13th century Anglo-French and meant a small door or gate. However, a cricket wicket referring to the three stumps at each end of the pitch was first recorded in the 18th century.

That cricket comes from a French word makes sense when you realise that cricket is a very old game. Evidence shows it was being played by royalty in medieval England around 1300. The English ruling classes were then still talking Norman French. Evidence comes from the Wardrobe Accounts of the Royal Household. It mentions that large sums were being spent on Prince Edward, the son of Edward I, to equip him for the game of creag (another spelling of cricc perhaps).

Three hundred years later in 1598 the modern word, cricket, is first recorded in an account of a game being played by boys at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford.

The meaning of cricket referring to a sense of fair play is first recorded in 1851 referring to the notion of cricket as it should be played.

However, in Australia (in 2011) with the Ashes having been lost so easily to England this summer, cricket is not a word we want spoken of.