I'm curious about the origins of the word "chuck" to mean "throw," as in:

Billy chucked a snowball at the bus.

The Online Etymology Dictionary gives me this:

"to throw," 1590s, variant of chock "give a blow under the chin" (1580s), possibly from French choquer "to shock, strike against," imitative (see shock (n.1)). Related: Chucked; chucking.

I'm familiar with "chuck one's chin", but can only guess how the word for that concept made the leap to throwing something, though apparently it did so quite quickly (1580s --> 1590s).

However, dictionaries are not in accord on the etymology of "chuck" meaning "throw." Merriam-Webster tells me:

origin unknown; 15th century

Dictionary.com says:

1575-1585; origin uncertain

Interesting to note the entry for the noun form in Online Etymology Dictionary:

"slight blow under the chin," 1610s, from chuck (v.1). Meaning "a toss, a throw" is from 1862. Related: Chucked; chucking.

So, I'm led to believe that the verb use for the affectionate chin-blow preceded the noun use by 30 or 40 years, but that the verb use for the "throw" meaning wasn't followed by a noun use until 270 years later.

Q. Can anyone give me a more authoritative / complete / certain explanation of this word's history? Does anyone have examples of "chuck" meaning "throw" from the 15th or 16th centuries?

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The Oxford dictionary of word orgins supplies:

chuck L16th
This informal word meaning ‘throw’ is the same as the one meaning ‘touch (someone) playfully under the chin’, probably from Old French chuquer, ‘to knock, bump’ (of unknown ultimate origin). The chuck [L17th] of a drill is a variant of chock, with chunk [L17th] another variant. The phrase the chuck expressing rejection (give somebody the chuck) dates from the late 19th century, while the sense ‘to vomit’ is an Australianism from the mid 20th century.

The OED supplies one usage from L16th:
1593 Prodigal Son iv. 112 Yes, this old one will I give you (Chucks him old hose and doublet).

This example cited in many books, including Slang and its analogues past and present.

The text of the play is found in: The school of Shakspeare (1878).


The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Etymology says:

Chuck
give a playful touch under the chin; throw with the hand XVI.

Also (dial.) chock XVI. perh. — OF. chuquer, earlier form of choquer knock, bump, of unkn. orig.

Wheat's An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (1898) has an entry for chuck and states that the word is a doublet of 'shock', which also comes from Old French choquer. But I didn't find any uses in the OED of 'shock' to mean 'chuck/throw'.

Klein's A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (1971), p 286 notes:

chuck
tr verb, to throw--From earlier chock, from French choquer, 'to shock', which is probably borrowed from Dutch schokken, a word of imitative origin. Compare shock, 'to collide'.

and

An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (1921) says:

chuck. To throw. Earlier chock. F. choquer, of doubtful origin. Earliest E. sense is connected with chin.

  • Thanks CarSmack. There are some mysteries in the story of that word, for sure. But you've given me some info I didn't have. – Rusty Tuba Dec 12 '14 at 5:44

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