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I was always wondering what is the etymology of the different names of number 0 .In sports like tennis, cricket, and football, the number 0 has the very specialized names "love", "duck", and "nil".

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closed as not a real question by JeffSahol, Mitch, JSBձոգչ, aedia λ, Kate Gregory Jan 30 '12 at 21:45

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
vaguely related: I've broken my duck –  Matt Эллен Jan 30 '12 at 13:21
    
another: why "love" in tennis –  Matt Эллен Jan 30 '12 at 13:37
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Vote to close as overly broad; you're asking either 3 different questions, at least some of which are general reference, or asking an open question for various terms that we will come up with. –  JeffSahol Jan 30 '12 at 13:43
    
possible duplicate of Why do they say "love fifteen," in tennis? –  Mitch Jan 30 '12 at 14:08
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This is only the beginning... there is also the term zilch and zip and nada. Then there is the word bupkis. Just how many different words for nothing are there...? (Here's one list.) –  Mei Jan 30 '12 at 17:03
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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Love in tennis comes from the notion playing for love, i.e. for nothing.

Since nil means nothing, it's easy to understand why it is used to denote the score. What is not explained, however, is how it came to be used on sports occasions.

As for duck, one of its meanings is to lose a trick by deliberately playing lower than one's opponent, hence gaining zero points.

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+1. The OED says ‘duck' is a shortened form of 'duck’s egg', but gives no further explanation. –  Barrie England Jan 30 '12 at 13:51
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My understanding of duck in cricket is that it comes from 'duck's egg'. The scorer starts with a 0 (or circle, or egg) against each player, because he starts with no runs. When the batsman scores his first run, he 'breaks his duck' because the first run is put either against or through the 0 If he doesn't he is 'out for a duck's egg', or a duck for short: a 'golden duck' if out first ball.
(I have no references for this, but if you think the wordplay is too weak and contrived to catch on, you only have to look at the live text on the BBC website for the current Tests to see that this is rapier wit by comparison: cricket spectators have a lot of time to chat.)

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I came across this explanation myself and it is certainly valid for cricket. It is a folk belief that the term duck's egg comes from the shape of number 0 being similar in shape to that of a duck's egg. –  Irene Jan 30 '12 at 14:50
    
In America, the term 'goose egg' is also used for the score '0'. –  Peter Shor Jan 30 '12 at 16:38
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Although there isn't agreement on the subject, an alternative origin for the term "love" in tennis is L'oeuf, or (the) egg, in French.

The use of egg to mean the number 0, is due to the fact that the shape of the numeral is similar to the shape of the object.

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Null (and I would presume nil) come from Latin nullus or none. Zero and null are technically not the same thing in computer science, but in Norwegian they seem to be interchangeable. I remember them using null to mean zero.

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