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GAME, a word which in its primary and widest significance means any amusement or sport, often combined in the early examples with “glee,” “play,” “joy” or “solace.” It is a common Teutonic word, in O. Eng. gamen, in O.H.G. gaman, but only appears in modern usage outside English in Dan. gammen and Swed. gamman. The ulterior derivation is obscure, but philologists have identified it with the Goth. gaman, companion or companionship; if this be so, it is compounded of the prefix ga-, with, and the root seen in “man.” Apart from its primary and general meaning the word has two specific applications, first to a contest played as a recreation or as an exhibition of skill, in accordance with rules and regulations; and, secondly, to those wild animals which are the objects of the chase, and their flesh as used for food, distinguished as such from meat, fish and poultry, and from the flesh of deer, to which the name “venison” is given. For “game,” from the legal aspect, and the laws relating to its pursuit and capture see Game Laws. The athletic contests of the ancient Greeks (ἀγῶνες) and the public shows (ludi) of the arena and amphitheatre of the ancient Romans are treated below (Games, Classical); the various forms of modern games, indoor and outdoor, whether of skill, strength or chance, are dealt with under their specific titles. A special use (“gaming” or “gambling”) restricts the term to the playing of games for money, or to betting and wagering on the results of events, as in horse-racing, &c. (see Gaming and Wagering). “Gamble,” “gambler” and “gambling” appear very late in English. The earliest quotations in the New English Dictionary for the three words are dated 1775, 1747 and 1784 respectively. They were first regarded as cant or slang words, and implied a reproach, either as referring to cheats or sharpers, or to those who played recklessly for extravagant stakes. The form of the words is obscure, but is supposed to represent a local variation gammle of the M.E. gamenian. From this word must, of course, be distinguished “gambol,” to sport, frisk, which, as the older forms (gambald, gambaud) show, is from the Fr. gambade, leap, jump, of a horse, It. gambado, gamba, leg (Mod. Fr. jambe).
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