The OED supplies no clue to the origin of either gully or googly. It does not in fact mention etymology of the cricket sense of gully, which has led me to infer that it is from the ordinary meaning of gully, i.e. a channel between point and slip. However one responder to an earlier question suggests it is of Indian origin.

As regards googly, the OED says 'origin unknown'. It is interesting because of the derived verb 'to google', which nowadays has acquired an entirely different meaning.

a. A ball which breaks from the off, though bowled with apparent leg-break action.

1903 C. B. Fry in P. F. Warner How We recovered Ashes (1904) ii. 29 You must persuade that Bosanquet of yours to practise..those funny ‘googlies’ of his.
1904 P. F. Warner How we recovered Ashes 106 Bosanquet..can bowl as badly as anyone in the world, but, when he gets a length, those slow ‘googlies’, as the Australian papers call them, are apt to paralyse the greatest players.
1909 P. A. Vaile in Westm. Gaz. 17 Sept. 14/2 The ‘googly’ is merely the American service at lawn-tennis introduced into cricket.
1920 E. R. Wilson in P. F. Warner Cricket ii. 74 The ‘googly’ or ‘Bosie ball’ as it was afterwards christened in Australia.
1924 N. Cardus Days in Sun 48 Hirst cultivated the swerve and Bosanquet the ‘googly’. 1930 C. V. Grimmett Getting Wickets i. 22 It was at this time that I learned to bowl the ‘bosie’ or ‘googly’—an off-break with a leg-break action.
1954 J. H. Fingleton Ashes crown Year 46 Australians call it bosie after Bosanquet..Englishmen call it the google, or googly.
1955 K. R. Miller & R. S. Whitington Cricket Typhoon i. ii. 32 In..Yorkshire, the ‘Chinaman’ is regarded as the lefthand bowler's off-break... In Australia..the ‘Chinaman’ is..the left-hander's googly.

Can anyone supply any further clue to the origin of either word, please?


Picking up Jimmy's reference to Googly as Australian slang, there are a couple of possibilities. Firstly to establish the early Australian usage: 1904 P.F.Warner How We recovered Ashes 106 Bosanquet.. can bowl as badly as anyone in the world,but, when gets a length, those slow 'googlies', as the Australian papers call them, are apt to paralyse the greatest players.

Sidney J. Baker's 'The Australian Language' notes the usage of 'googly' but doesn't speculate on its origins. Baker does note the use of the word 'goog' for egg (still widely used in Australia) and speculates that this might be derived from the common root of 'gog' as in goosgog (a gooseberry). Baker appears to be referencing the shape of the berry (ovate) and the egg, but I haven't been able to trace the source of the word 'gog', except to note this reference from the OED: Goggle - to sway or roll about; move loosely and unsteadily, and associated quotes from c.1200, but more clearly from 1519: 'Maydens that cary geere vpon theyr heed putte a wrethe of haye betwene the vessell annd theyr heed to stay it from goglynge. Whether the old usage of goglynge is derived from an observation of the tendency for an ovate shaped object (possibly called a 'gog') to wobble, or whether ovate shaped objects got the name 'gog' from their tendenty to wobble in the sense of goglynge is a matter for someone with deeper resources (in Welsh I suspect) than I.

But whether 'googly' got it's name from the tendency of the ball to bounce as if it was mis-shaped like an egg (hence goog-ly), or directly from 'goggle' which (according to the OED) is related to the Welsh 'gogi' meaning to shake, or Gaelic 'gog' meaning a nodding or tossing of the head, it doesn't really matter - it seems that there's a strong link back through goggle to gogi or gog in Welsh/Gaelic. As for how the Welsh/Gaelic usage came to be common in Australia, it's interesting to note that Sidney Baker records 'goog' (an egg) as a expression used by prospectors and miners, and to note that there was a very strong presence of ex-Cornish tin miners, particularly in South Australia from the 1840's onwards.

It is also worth noting that the modern sense of 'goggle', that is for the eyes to 'bulge' or stare in amazement was not the original usage, according to the OED. Again the OED on 'goggle' - to turn the eyes to one side or other. The modern usage of goggle (and Google!) has, I think, in this case obscured the arguably strong link between googlie and goggle.


Gully derives from gullet, which (like gorge) is ultimately derived from the PIE root *gwere (= √2. गॄ) meaning to swallow (Monier Monier-Williams). This is where the sense of narrowness derives from. Thus the Indian word (in its various modifications, meaning throat (गला) narrow street (गली) and drip (गल्)) is very much cognate with the English one - and all these derivatives ultimately have a common source meaning 'to swallow'). In the context of cricket, the gully position is designed to field deeper-hit shots from the batsman.

As for googly I have seen no evidence of an Indian origin. Since it is a deceptive trick in cricket there is merit in the suggestion that it derives from googly-eyed.

  • The origin of the general meaning of gully in English is not in dispute. Nor is the Indian use of gully cricket (which I had never heard before) to mean street cricket. Neither of these addresses the OP's specific question about the origin of gully as a fielding position.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 1 '13 at 14:35
  • But I believe it does. The concept of narrowness and therefore obliqueness in the sense of fielding originates from the common source as described in my post. It is academic to argue the later historical developments.
    – user49727
    Nov 1 '13 at 14:51
  • Moreover from the posts it is quite clear that there is confusion about the origin of the word. It doesn't stop at 'narrow valley' or 'street'. The origin is from 'swallowing'.
    – user49727
    Nov 1 '13 at 14:52
  • At the risk of spelling out the obvious .... the gully position is designed to field deeper hit shots from the batsman. The analogy is quite plain.
    – user49727
    Nov 1 '13 at 14:57
  • Please edit the info/arguments from your 3 comments into your answer, to make the combined info more coherent. Also what analogy do you refer to? What does depth have to do with narrowness? Nov 1 '13 at 15:34

As far as "Gully cricket" is concerned, In India cricket is most famous game. India is still a developing country. Children out there doesn't get much space or large playground to play cricket.

But they try to manage to play cricket in streets and lanes nearby their house.

In Hindi which is native language of India, Hindi meaning of Street/lane is "Gully".

From here the origin of gully is occurred , which is now widely used for smaller format of cricket or T20 or Twenty-Twenty cricket.

  • 1
    Is 'gully', meaning narrow street, a Hindi word? Or does it originate from the English meaning of 'gully'? It could be that 'gully' in cricket is of Indian origin. The Australians call it 'gully-slip'. What you describe as 'gully-cricket' still goes on in Britain to some extent, but not nearly as much as when I was a boy. Sadly modern life has dealt a crippling blow to street and village communities.
    – WS2
    Nov 1 '13 at 11:00
  • 1
    You got it correct, "gully" meaning a narrow street in Hindi. And as Indian children play cricket in gully and hence it named as and became famous as "Gully Cricket" Nov 1 '13 at 11:05
  • You may wish to point this out to the OED, as they do not have it as the etymology of 'gully' used in the cricket sense.
    – WS2
    Nov 1 '13 at 11:18
  • Gully in the question is the name of a fielding position, which does not seem to have anything to do with India (unless you have some evidence to the contrary). Nov 1 '13 at 11:21
  • I can not provide any evidence though i can search for that. My base to say that is I am an Indian. What Cricket means to us and what are the origin of word i am so sure about it. It has nothing to do with that Gully which is a fielding position making it more pronounce that What gully i am referring is Guly a hindi word Not Gully and cricketing terms shorter format of cricket some time termed as "Guly cricket" not Gully Cricket.But the author don't get confuse that's why i haven't corrected him because i knew what he is referring to and i answered accordingly. Nov 1 '13 at 11:26

Gully is a Hindi word which means street. What street football is to Brazil is gully cricket to India. Although hockey is the national game, Indians are passionate about cricket. They manage to play cricket in the lanes using stones for wickets and adjusting the rules. What started out as a local term, has gained more acceptance.

Origin: Googly as a cricket term, 1903, of unknown origin. As an adjective, of eyes, 1901. [Dictionary.com]
Perhaps it gave the batsmen the googly-eyes. The original term was Bosey named after Bosanquet, also called the wrong'un. Another point to note, it is of Australian origin and not Indian (doosra). And you know Aussies have a notorious reputation for their slangs


From Merriam Webster and other online sources

  1. a trench which was originally worn in the earth by running water and through which water often runs after rains
  2. a small valley or gulch

To visualize,

enter image description here

Now, from the glossary of cricket


a close fielder near the slip fielders, at an angle to a line between the two sets of stumps of about 100 to 140 degrees.[6]

In similar context, to visualize Gully fielder position

enter image description here

Also note, Gully cricket has a different connotation. It's just an Indianized name for Street Cricket and has no relationship with Gully fielder position.

Regarding the origin of the word Googly, Wikipedia says without quoting any reference

Chambers Dictionary describes the etymology of the word as "dubious".


It is interesting because of the derived verb 'to google', which nowadays has acquired an > entirely different meaning.

The verb Google is derived from the name Google (the search engine) which derived its name from googol meaning 10^100.

  • You forgot to say what exactly Chambers describes as dubious. (And Wikipedia's reference is Chambers.)
    – Hugo
    Nov 1 '13 at 14:16
  • 1
    This answer restates the question with more detail, none of which comes anywhere near answering the OP's specific questions. -1
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 1 '13 at 14:33
  • @ColinFine: I answer affirms OP's understanding that gully in cricket is not related to gully cricket but its closely related to the meaning of gully, i.e. a channel between point and slip.
    – Abhijit
    Nov 2 '13 at 4:42
  • @Hugo: That's why I added the disclaimer without quoting any reference.
    – Abhijit
    Nov 2 '13 at 4:42

An interesting addition to the discussion is the cartoon named 'Barney Google,' which began in 1919, created by Billy DeBeck. It inspired a couple of 1923 songs, one of which included lyrics by Billy Rose, the title of which was 'Barney Google (With the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes).'

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. Does the song have anything to do with cricket? Also: this is not a discussion. It's a question with answers. Answers in Stack Exchange must be relevant, I'm afraid.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 4 '17 at 18:21
  • Please see the tour and help centre for more details... Also, we generally assume 'accepted', old (this is over 3 years old) questions are solved. check here for newer ones. Jul 4 '17 at 18:47

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