A ball is a round object (usually spherical
, but can sometimes be ovoid
) with various uses. It is used in ball game
s, where the play of the game follows the state of the ball as it is hit, kicked or thrown by players. Balls can also be used for simpler activities, such as catch or juggling
. Balls made from hard-wearing materials are used in engineering
applications to provide very low friction bearings, known as ball bearings
weapons use stone and metal balls as projectile
Although many types of balls are today made from rubber
, this form was unknown outside the Americas until after the voyages of Columbus
. The Spanish were the first Europeans to see the bouncing rubber balls (although solid and not inflated) which were employed most notably in the Mesoamerican ballgame
. Balls used in various sports in other parts of the world prior to Columbus were made from other materials such as animal bladders or skins, stuffed with various materials.
As balls are one of the most familiar spherical objects to humans, the word "ball" may refer to or describe spherical or near-spherical objects.
"Ball" is used metaphorically sometimes to denote something spherical or spheroid, e.g., armadillos and human beings curl up into a ball, we make a ball with our fist.
The first known use of the word ''ball'' in English in the sense of a globular body that is played with was in 1205 in ' in the phrase, "" The word came from the Middle English
''bal'' (inflected as ''ball-e, -es'', in turn from Old Norse
''böllr'' (pronounced ; compare Old Swedish ''baller'', and Swedish ''boll'') from Proto-Germanic
''ballu-z'' (whence probably Middle High German ''bal, ball-es'', Middle Dutch ''bal''), a cognate
with Old High German
''ballo, pallo'', Middle High German balle from Proto-Germanic ''*ballon'' (weak masculine), and Old High German ''ballâ, pallâ'', Middle High German ''balle'', Proto-Germanic ''*ballôn'' (weak feminine). No Old English representative of any of these is known. (The answering forms in Old English would have been ''beallu, -a, -e''—compare ''bealluc, ballock''.) If ''ball-'' was native in Germanic, it may have been a cognate with the Latin ''foll-is'' in sense of a "thing blown up or inflated." In the later Middle English spelling ''balle'' the word coincided graphically with the French ''balle'' "ball" and "bale" which has hence been erroneously assumed to be its source. French ''balle'' (but not ''boule'') is assumed to be of Germanic origin, itself, however. In Ancient Greek
the word πάλλα (''palla'') for "ball" is attested besides the word σφαίρα (''sfaíra''), ''sphere
A ball, as the essential feature in many forms of gameplay requiring physical exertion, must date from the very earliest times. A rolling object appeals not only to a human baby
, but to a kitten
and a puppy
. Some form of game with a ball is found portrayed on Egyptian
monuments, and is played among aboriginal tribes at the present day. In Homer
was playing at ball with her maidens when Odysseus
first saw her in the land of the Phaeacia
ns (Od. vi. 100). And Halios and Laodamas performed before Alcinous
and Odysseus with ball play, accompanied with dancing (Od. viii. 370). The most ancient balls in Eurasia
have been discovered in Karasahr
and are 3.000 years old. They were made of hair-filled leather.
Among the ancient Greeks
, games with balls (σφαῖραι) were regarded as a useful subsidiary to the more violent athletic exercises, as a means of keeping the body supple, and rendering it graceful, but were generally left to boys and girls. Of regular rules for the playing of ball games, little trace remains, if there were any such. The names in Greek for various forms, which have come down to us in such works as the Ὀνομαστικόν of Julius Pollux
, imply little or nothing of such; thus, ἀπόρραξις (''aporraxis'') only means the putting of the ball on the ground with the open hand, οὐρανία (''ourania''), the flinging of the ball in the air to be caught by two or more players; φαινίνδα (''phaininda'') would seem to be a game of catch played by two or more, where feinting is used as a test of quickness and skill. Pollux (i. x. 104) mentions a game called episkyros
(ἐπίσκυρος), which has often been looked on as the origin of football. It seems to have been played by two sides, arranged in lines; how far there was any form of "goal" seems uncertain.
It was impossible to produce a ball that was perfectly spherical;
children usually made their own balls by inflating pig's bladders and heating them in the ashes of a fire to make them rounder,
(fl. 420s BC – 340s BC) described "balls which have leather coverings in twelve pieces".
Among the Romans
, ball games were looked upon as an adjunct to the bath, and were graduated to the age and health of the bathers, and usually a place (sphaeristerium) was set apart for them in the baths (thermae). There appear to have been three types or sizes of ball, the pila, or small ball, used in catching games, the paganica, a heavy ball stuffed with feathers, and the follis
, a leather ball filled with air, the largest of the three. This was struck from player to player, who wore a kind of gauntlet
on the arm. There was a game known as trigon
, played by three players standing in the form of a triangle, and played with the follis, and also one known as harpastum
, which seems to imply a "scrimmage" among several players for the ball. These games are known to us through the Romans, though the names are Greek.
Modern ball games
The various modern games played with a ball or balls and subject to rules are treated under their various names, such as polo
File:Football Pallo valmiina-cropped.jpg|Football from association football (soccer).
File:Bandy ball (Orange).JPG|Bandy ball.
File:Billiards balls.jpg|Billiard balls.
File:Ball and pin.jpg|Bowling ball (and pin).
File:Golfball.jpg|Golf ball next to a hole.
File:Brine lax ball.jpg|Lacrosse ball.
File:Rink bandy ball.JPG|Rinkball.
File:Roller-hockey-(Quad)-Ball.jpg|Roller hockey ball.
File:Green_Rubber_Band_Ball.jpg|Rubber band ball.
File:Squash Ball Dunlop Revelation Pro 1.jpg|Squash ball.
File:Assortment of 40 mm table tennis balls.jpg|Table tennis balls.
File:NewWaterPoloBall.JPG|Water polo ball.
Prolate spheroid balls
Several sports use a ball in the shape of a prolate spheroid
File:Wilson American football.jpg|American football.
File:Sherrin.png|Australian rules football.
File:Canadian football.png|Canadian football.
File:Rugbyball2.jpg|Rugby union ball.
* Ball (mathematics)
* Buckminster Fullerene
* Football (ball)
* Penny floater
* Prisoner Ball
* Super Ball