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I've always thought "times tables" to refer to multiplication tables was a British thing, but Wikipedia suggests it might be common in the US, too.

Is anything known about when the term was first used, who by, and whether it precedes the use of "multiplication tables"? I can't find anything in the online dictionaries I've looked at.

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    "Times tables" is the main term I remember being used when I was in school (in the US), yeah.
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 20:28
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    The earliest book I've found so far that uses the term "times tables" is The Child's Instructor; or Learning Made Easy (Ward, Lock & Co, London and New York, 1883).
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 20:54
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    It's nearly impossible to determine who coined a term like this. The best you can usually do is determine who first used it in print, but it had probably been used orally by teachers much longer.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 20:57
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    Strike that. John Heywood's Complete Series of Home Lesson Books, Alfonzo Gardiner (London, 1882).
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 21:00

1 Answer 1

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1864 is the year given for the first written usage of times table for the sense "multiplication table" in OED:

1864    When this exercise can be readily done, pursue the same course with the three times table.
              W. Easton, Complete Course Oral & Mental Arithm. 15

1863 is the year given for the first written usage without table for the same sense in OED:

1863    I've said my ‘seven times’ over and over, Seven times one are seven.
              J. Ingelow, Poems 160

However, times expressing multiplication goes back to Middle English and here is the first written usage by Chaucer from OED:

c1410        The were nede of hennes, as I wene Ȝa, moo than seuen tymes seuentene.
(c1390)    G. Chaucer, Nun's Priest's Tale (Cambridge MS. Dd.4.24) (1902) l. 4644

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “time, n., sense II.19.d.ii”, July 2023.
https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/5650505840


Times table for the obsolete original sense "a table of times, a timetable" is from 1844 per OED:

1844    To Baden... Times table and fares not yet published.
              F. Coghlan, Hand-book Central Europe 175/1

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “times table, n.”, July 2023.
https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/7531546935

Multiplication table is from 1657 per OED so it precedes the usage of times table.

1657    The multiplication Table thus ordered doth give the product of all the 9 digits
             placed orderly by every of the 9 digits.
             W. Leybourn, Arithmetick iii. 244

Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “multiplication table, n., sense 1”, July 2023.
https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/2828673392

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