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I was thinking a bit about the concept of a sales pitch, and I looked the word up on the free dictionary.

I can see from here that the word pitch has a couple of similar meanings do with tar all coming from the same etymology. This makes sense to me to me and I'm not asking about this.

Then there is a single other etymology with between 20 and 40 different meanings, many of which appear to me to be almost entirely unrelated! There are meanings from throwing a ball to putting up a tent to the frequency of a musical note to the inclination of an aeroplane to my original topic of a sales presentation.

I also looked on wiktionary, and on both websites all they do is relate these many different meanings to a Middle English word for 'to pick'. To me it seems like there is some etymology lacking on these websites, explains how all of these many different meanings came about since this middle English word.

Can anybody suggest a way to break down the many meanings of the word pitch into smaller groups, and show how they came from the root meaning 'to pick'?

I'd also be interested to know if there's an explanation for why these websites don't expand more on the etymology of the word, and for why such a word comes to have so many seemingly disparate meanings.

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  • It looks as though even Oxford Dictionaries can't - they say Middle English (as a verb in the senses ‘thrust (something pointed) into the ground’ and ‘fall headlong’): perhaps related to Old English picung ‘stigmata’, of unknown ultimate origin. The sense development is obscure. Aug 17 '21 at 9:20
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    Some words (and I have seen it Koine Greek particularly) have a very broad spectrum of meaning. At first glance it is difficult to suggest a single concept that conveys that spectrum. Until one takes a few 'steps back' (can't see the wood for the trees). I suspect there may be a very broad concept which has gendered the many descriptive words and action words from whatever is behind the idea of 'pitch'. Up-voted +1 in the hope we can determine the root concept.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 17 '21 at 9:27
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    AHD offers a variety, including pitch (n.1) 1520s, "something that is thrust in or fixed or pierced," from pitch (v.1). Sense of "slope, degree, inclination" is from 1540s; from 1550s as "highest point or reach;" from 1620s as "height" in general. Meaning "height of an arched roof above the floor" is by 1610s.
    – Xanne
    Aug 17 '21 at 11:06
  • It's a relative beginner when it comes to polysemy. One source suggests a league table: set (with 464 definitions/ senses and subsenses) / run (396 definitions) / go (368 definitions) / take (343 definitions) .... Aug 17 '21 at 12:10

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