Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I know the meaning of the phrase, but where exactly does it come from?

share|improve this question
    
+1 Fun question, it's an evocative (and seemingly) incomprehensible phrase! –  thesunneversets Nov 19 '10 at 17:15
2  
I found this online, which clarifies even further: Games like backgammon are known as 'tables' games. The phrase 'turn the tables' derives from these games and from the practise of reversing the board so that players play from their opponent's previous position. The first known example of the figurative use of the phrase in print is in Robert Sanderson's XII sermons, 1634: "Whosoever thou art that dost another wrong, do but turn the tables: imagine thy neighbour were now playing thy game, and thou his." –  thesunneversets Nov 19 '10 at 17:16
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Etymonline to the rescue:

Figurative phrase turn the tables (1630s) is from backgammon (in O.E. and M.E. the game was called tables).

share|improve this answer
    
Cool, thanks a bunch, that makes a lot of sense. –  Ted Ballou Nov 19 '10 at 14:49
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.