In sports, a rubber is a collection that is composed of one odd number of matches whereby a bulk of wins bring away the series. Wiktionary and also Merriam-Webster both perform the etymology the this an interpretation as "origin unknown." Is there any more information available than this around the origin of this word, possibly some study or speculation as to the origin?


Samuel Johnson"s Dictionary the the Language (1756) expresses no doubt the the term originates from the native rub:

RUBBER, s. rub>

One the rubs.

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The instrument with which one rubs. Swift.

A outlet file. Moxon.

A game ; a contest ; two games out the three. Collier.

A whetstone.

Twenty years earlier, man Kersey, A new Dictionary: or, A Compleat repertoire of the most appropriate and far-reaching Words, and also Terms of Art typically used in the Language (1739) gives only 2 rubber-related definitions:

A Rubber, a Rubbing-Cloth.

To play Rubbers, or a dual Game at any type of Sport.

Earlier version of Kersey indigenous 1706 and also 1720 have actually no entries at every for rubber; and Elisha Coles, An Dictionary, Explaining the difficult Terms that are provided in Divinity, Husbandry, Physick, Philosophy, Law, Navigation, Mathematicks, and also other Arts and also Sciences (1717) similarly has no entry because that rubber. At the very least in their beforehand editions the pre-Johnson dictionaries concentrated on an overwhelming words, and it is very probable the rubber was widely used in England prior to its illustration in the 1739 Kersey dictionary.

Though both Kersey (1739) and Johnson (1756) offer interpretations for rubber in the context of games, neither includes a definition for latex-based rubber nor because that anything implying elasticity. This offers circumstantial evidence that rubber as used to games and also sports is no directly linked to what provided to be called "India rubber." In fact, the earliest thesaurus I have uncovered that mentions "India rubber" is young name Webster, An American thesaurus of the Language (1828), where this item shows up at the bottom that the entry because that rubber:

India rubber, elastic resin, or caoutchouc, a substance produced from the syringe tree of south America; a problem remarkably pliable and elastic.

All of which often tends to get rid of the notion of elasticity or bouncing together a possible element the original sense of rubber as provided in the paper definition of games—but it doesn"t offer much added insight past Johnson"s surmise that rubber in games, like the other senses that rubber that he lists, originates from rub.

Two very early instance of rubbers in the context of games shows up in cutting board Dekker, "Sloth or The 4th dayes Triumph" in The 7 Deadly Sinnes the London (1606):

Hee then gau patent to every the Vintners, to keep open house, and to emptye your Hogsheades to every commers, who did so, dying your grates into a drunkards blush (to do them knowne native the Grates that a prison) least customers must reele away from them, and also hanging out brand-new bushes, that if males at their going out, could not view the signe,yet they can not loose themselues in the bush. He similarly gaue order that dicing-houses, and also bowling alleyes should be erected, whereupon a number of poore handy-crafts-men, that beore wrought night and day, made share of themselues that ten groates, and crowns a peece, and what through Betting, Lurches, Rubbers and such tricks, they neuer tooke treatment for a good daies worke afterwards.

and in thomas Dekker, "Vincents Law" in The Belman of London (1608):

The Dycing ebeator, and the cozening Card-player, walke in the habites of Gentlemen, and cary the faces of honest men. So an in similar way doe those that are Students in the Vincente Lawe : who Inne is a Bowling Alley, who bookes room bowles, and whose law situations are lurches and rubbers. The pastime the bowles is now growne to usual exercise, or rather a profession of which some of all companies are frée ; the sport is not so typical as the cozenage provided in it, i beg your pardon to have actually it live through credyt and also in a an excellent name is referred to as the Vincents Law.

In this legislation they which play booty room the Banckers.

He that Betteth is the Gripe.

He the is cozened is the Vincent.

The Gaines acquired is called the Termage.

The Bankers are typically men apparelled like honest and sub / stanciall Citizens, who come right into the Bowling Allies, because that a rubbers or so, as though it were quite for sport, then for any gaines, protesting they no whether they victory or loose : i beg your pardon carelessnes of your is yet a shadowe to your pretended knaveries : whilst they are crying Rub, Rub, Rub, and a Great one, In come the spectators dropping one by one, and also stand leaning over a Rayle to behold castle ; of i beg your pardon oftentimes some simple men that never saw common Bowling Ally before may perhaps be of the number, and is brought in of purpose by among their owne Brotherhood to be rid the his money : ...

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Though Dekker here is explicate a crooked video game of "bowles," it appear that in moral versions the the game, too, spectators would certainly shout "Rub! Rub! Rub!"—either for encouragement, because "rubbing" (perhaps highlight the target pins with the actors bowle) may have actually been the source of point out in the game, or for purposes of calling for wagers. In any type of event Dekker"s description of bowling provides a feasible explanation for just how rubber (or according to him, "a rubbers") can have arised in its idiom gaming sense.

In explaining how to to speak "Rubbers at bowls" in Latin, Christopher Wase, Dictionarium Minus: A Compendious thesaurus (1662) gives some insight into just how the term was understood in in 1662: