Somewhere, I picked up the use of “to punt something” (or “to punt on something”) to mean “choosing not to do something” or “choosing not to do something now”. Examples:

The weather looks bad, let’s punt (on) the bike ride.

But I am having doubt that this is a correct use of the term, and I can find hardly any related references, so I am seeking clarification.

Also, is it to put something or to punt on something, or both?

Some of the possibly related references I found are:

  • Let’s extend all the tax cuts and punt again. (source)

  • The free dictionary says:
    1. Informal To cease doing something; give up: Let's punt on this and try something else.
  • Multiple slang dictionarlies (this one and this one), which maybe indicates that this used in computer jargon, but not in general English.
  • According to Yahoo answers, it is also business jargon.
  • 1
    CDO lists it, marking it as informal and AmE. – Edwin Ashworth May 7 '17 at 15:18
  • 2
    @Edwin: Weird. It seems a very counter-intuitive usage to me, given that to take a punt on X is a much more common idiom meaning to try X (metaphorically place a bet on it), which is effectively the complete opposite. – FumbleFingers May 7 '17 at 15:34
  • @FF But wasn't it your grandad who said something similar about 'cleave' (it might have been Anne). – Edwin Ashworth May 7 '17 at 15:48
  • @tchrist, fixed. – Joachim Breitner May 7 '17 at 15:50
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers It is from "punting" a rugby ball, or American football. In Britain we talk about "kicking (an idea/proposal) into touch" - same sort of thing. – WS2 May 7 '17 at 15:56

Per the OED it is a North American colloquial term, which derives from that meaning of punt which is to do with kicking a Rugby ball, or American football.

It is sense 4a of third meaning of the verb punt - to "kick after dropping [the ball] from the hands, and before it touches the ground".

  1. N. Amer. colloq. a. intr. To give up, back out; to defer or avoid taking action or responsibility, to ‘pass the buck’.

1966 Chicago Tribune 10 Nov. (North Neighborhood News section) 3 a 1/4 I've never been a fashion commentator before so I'll punt.

1972 N.Y. Times 16 Apr. 42/3 When Jerry saw that he was not going to run things, he punted.

1982 Christian Sci. Monitor (Nexis) 12 Aug. The board doesn't really seem to know how to handle the de-icing problem and has punted on a major issue that could have strong bearing on protecting passengers next winter.

2002 Yahoo! Internet Life Feb. 100/2 Sometimes it's easier to punt and assign the whole damn problem to a computer.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Yes, In American football the team punts the ball when they decide to give up trying for a touchdown and give the ball to the other team. The idea is to kick the ball as far down field as they can to make sure the other team is as far from scoring as possible when the ball is turned over to them. – Jim May 7 '17 at 18:24
  • 1
    @Jim Not entirely dissimilar to tactics in rugby. Interestingly, the equivalent metaphor in Britain is "kicking for touch" (i.e. to get the ball over the touchline, and hence out of play). Are you still intending to move house? No, we've kicked the idea into touch for the time being. – WS2 May 7 '17 at 21:33

In Australian " Colloquial " language, to " take a punt " means " give it a shot, give it a go " take a chance and do it ".

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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