Over the weekend, I put out a poll on Twitter asking how you spell the following: Racket or Racquet?
Racquet got 69% of the vote, but is that correct?
On peRFect Tennis, I've always used the word racquet, thinking this was the British English way of spelling the word, and Racket was the American English.
It also left no doubt as to what you are talking about as racquet only has one definition.
The term racket has a couple of other meanings, such as a loud, unpleasant noise or an illegal or dishonest scheme for obtaining money.
However, after doing some digging, this is not the case, at least for tennis. It seems that many people use racquet through a preference for how it appears when written rather than it being the correct vocabulary.
What Does The Dictionary Prefer?
The Collin's Dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary and Merriam Webster all call ‘racquet' a variant spelling of the word racket.
The Associated Press Stylebook also prefer the ‘racket' spelling, and it seems that while acceptable, the word racquet is more of an alternative form.
And finally, although not an authoritative body on the English language, the International Tennis Federation and the Lawn Tennis Association use racket(s) exclusively for all their communications.
What Does Google Say?
The chart above comes from Google Trends data and looks at the interest for a particular topic or keyword over time. I.e. how many people are searching Google for a topic or keyword.
As you can see, ‘tennis racket' receives more than double the volume of ‘interest' based on the last five years of data.
So racket is clearly the terminology that gets used more frequently amongst the general population.
The chart is for worldwide searches, but it shows the same pattern when narrowed down to any English-speaking country, proving that it's not simply North American bias skewing the data towards racket.
Both the UK and Australia prefer tennis rackets over tennis racquets just as much as the USA, which surprised me.
What Do Tennis Racket Companies Use?
How about the tennis racket brands themselves? I decided to look at all the prominent websites and see which spelling they prefer.
I was using a UK IP address, which diverted me to the English language version of their website when available.
- Babolat – Rackets
- Wilson – Rackets
- Head – Racquets (uses Rackets for US)
- Tecnifibre – Rackets
- Dunlop – Rackets
- Yonex – Racquets
- Prince – Racquets
- Volkl – Racquets
- Pacific – Rackets
Where Does the Word Racquet Come From?
It's said that racquet originally comes a misspelling of the Old French word rachette, requette, rechete, resquette (Modern French raquette), and according to the Oxford English Dictionary Corpus, it first appeared in 1709 concerning a lacrosse stick.
I figured racquet must be the older term, but the Oxford English Dictionary has examples of ‘racket' used in sports-related context from as far back as the 16th century, predating the term racquet by a couple of hundred years.
There's also some suggestion the word could come via Italian racchetta or Spanish raqueta; both are often said to be derived from the Arabic ‘rāhat', a form of rāha which means palm of the hand.
Like the tennis scoring rules that make use of the term ‘love', the standard of evidence for the etymology of the word racquet isn't that high, so it is just as likely to come from somewhere else, but I think the misspelling of the French word is most likely.
Where is Racquet More Commonly Used?
Although racket dominates in usage globally, the term racquet is still used in certain contexts, especially in the USA, where many country clubs use the term racquet for their name, e.g. the Hampton Racquet Country Club.
This is probably due to the word racket having a couple of other meanings. The word racquet has no ambiguity about it, so you can be sure nobody thinks you're advertising organised crime services rather than tennis courts.
As my Twitter poll proved, the word racquet also looks slightly more appealing to the eye, which is an important factor for a country club that relies on status.
Interestingly, although racket is the preferred term for tennis, the word racquet is the spelling of choice for squash, badminton and, of course, racquetball.
In conclusion, racket is the older version that predates racquet and is regarded as the correct term for a tennis racket.
The spelling racquet is more than acceptable and is often perceived by many as the ‘better' or ‘intellectual' way of writing it, but from now on, I'm going to stick with the oldest and the one used by the ITF, and that is: racket.
It won't be easy as I've used racquet through habit for years, but we shall see how it goes.
Which spelling do you prefer? Racket or racquet? Let me know in the comments.