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How is boxing (the sport) related to box (packaging)? Is there a relationship between the words which I am not aware of?

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"Boxing" the sport is of course related to the word "box" as in fight with fists. However, although they are spelt the same and sound the same they are actually entirely different words from different origins.

"Box" as in a container comes from Latin buxis which in turn is from Greek pyxos, a type of tree (and consequently the wood used to make the container.)

"Box" as in the fighting style, is also a very old word, which, although separate from the Latin origin, is not known for sure. Most likely it is from the Germanic branch of English, from such words as "boke", "buc" and "bask" from Middle Dutch, German and Danish, all meaning "blow", possibly by onomatopoeic.

The English language for the most part comes from two core sources, Anglo Saxon coming via Germanic languages following the Anglo Saxon invasions, and Latin derived languages like French, following the Norman French invasion. This word is interesting where two meanings come from these two separate threads.

See etymonline.

  • but maybe everything is easier and the name is that because fighters are fighting in the box (ring)? :) – Andrey Dec 27 '14 at 17:06
  • Good concept Andrey, but I don't think the word's history supports such an explanation. – Fraser Orr Dec 27 '14 at 17:47
  • @Audrey That's modern, professional boxing. Boxing itself is just fighting with your fists; the ring is not an integral part of it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 27 '14 at 19:01
  • Boxing (sport): I think it should be mentioned that Latin has words such as pug-nus fist, pug-il boxer, fistfighter and the verb pungere, Perfect pu-pug-i. And Etymonline should have a note why this Latin word family is not seen as related. – rogermue Dec 28 '14 at 5:08
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If you look at the Online Etymology Dictionary, you will see the roots of two separate meanings of the noun box:

  1. Old English box "a wooden container," also the name of a type of shrub, from Late Latin buxis, from Greek pyxis "boxwood box," from pyxos "box tree," of uncertain origin. See OED entry for discussion. German Büchse also is a Latin loan word.

  2. "a blow," c.1300, of uncertain origin, possibly related to Middle Dutch boke, Middle High German buc, and Danish bask, all meaning "a blow," perhaps imitative.

The former gives us box as in "case" and boxing as in "packaging."

The latter gives us to box and the sport of boxing. Note that the meaning of box as in "a blow", or "hit", still survives in the expression "to box someone's ears."

Also note that there is another meaning of the verb to box: "to hem in (as an opponent)" - from Merriam-Webster online. Thus, boxing someone in is a part of the sport of boxing.

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Etymonline has some insight:

box (n.1.) Old English box "a wooden container," also the name of a type of shrub, from Late Latin buxis, from Greek pyxis "boxwood box," from pyxos "box tree," of uncertain origin.

box (n.2.) "a blow," c.1300, of uncertain origin, possibly related to Middle Dutch boke, Middle High German buc, and Danish bask, all meaning "a blow," perhaps imitative.

The two appear to be unrelated etymologically, the container "box" having Romanic roots, and the blow "box" more likely Germanic.

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