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Recently listening to a podcast, I heard someone (of unknown British origin) use 'take a punt' in the sense of 'take a chance.' Perhaps this is due to punting in American English referring to American Football, I am at a loss as to why punting would be risky.

  • Is this phrase common in the UK?
  • How did this phrase come about and is it related to a sport? (I assume it's not American Football, as punting is the 'safe' play for fourth down, as opposed to "going for it.")
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Appears someone misused a phrase with which he was not entirely familiar. – snumpy Apr 12 '11 at 17:56
@Snumpy I believe I misappropriated the origin in my question, because if 'take a punt'='take a chance'; then it would also ='make a bet'|'bet against the bank'. 'Punting' rings in my American ears as something you do to a football. – mfg Apr 12 '11 at 18:20
For the record, the "kick a ball" sense of punt does exist in British English too, but I'd say the betting sense was more common. – psmears Apr 12 '11 at 18:25
In Rugby football, a punt can be picked up by the same team if they get there first (which is unlikely but not impossible), and so is not the automatic turnover that it is in American football. Try from 0:49 of this – Henry Apr 12 '11 at 18:50
up vote 9 down vote accepted

In British English, take a punt means bet; it is an informal phrase, though.
Its origin is early 18th century, from French ponte ("player against the bank"), from Spanish punto ("a point").

In Australian, take a punt is an informal phrase for "attempt to do something."

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Specifically in BE it means an outside (ie. uncertain) bet. So you could bet on the favourite or 'take a punt' on an unknown outsider. It's probably more common outside actual betting - so you take a punt on eating at a new restaurant or an hiring a less qualified applicant for a job. – mgb Apr 12 '11 at 20:13
A gambler is commonly referred to as a 'punter' in the UK, though this term has also come to mean a 'customer' in some circumstances. – JHCL Sep 10 '15 at 11:12

This gambling-related usage of punt or punter is derived from the French ponter - to punt < ponte bet laid against the banker < from Spanish punto - point < from Latin punctum

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In the early 1900's they had a big gun called a punt gun used for shooting ducks , looks like it would've taken anything out in the near vicinity without much precision


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Nice picture, but probably not the correct explanation. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 11 '15 at 22:07
And in the early 1700s they punted at the gaming table, which somewhat predates punt guns. Besides which, with a punt gun you are practically guaranteed to hit your quarry, making it almost the opposite to the meaning here. – Jon Hanna Jun 12 '15 at 2:39

I very much doubt any well established English phrase relies on an Americanism - least of all from American football - for its liniage.

To 'take a punt' is simply to take a chance... Don't know whether it's from French, Latin or Ancient Greek... But it's certainly not from an Americanism.

The day English English becomes subservient to American English is the day I'll speak nothing but Manderin.

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PhraseFinder seems to disagree with your first sentence. And the MailOnline reveals more of the awful truth: "In 1832, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was fulminating about the 'vile and barbarous' new adjective that had just arrived in London. The word was 'talented'. It sounds innocuous enough to our ears, as do 'reliable', 'influential' and 'lengthy', which all inspired loathing when they first crossed the Atlantic." – Edwin Ashworth Mar 23 '15 at 23:41
This does not answer the question. (And it’s Mandarin, not Manderin.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 12 '15 at 0:30
Don't worry, it's not an Americanism. It's an Australianism. An Australianism that derived from an earlier British English verb for betting, but an Australianism all the same. – Jon Hanna Jun 12 '15 at 2:41

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