a spherical or approximately spherical body or shape; sphere:
He rolled the piece of paper into a ball.
a round or roundish body, of various sizes and materials, either hollow or solid, for use in games, as baseball, football, tennis, or golf.
a game played with a ball, especially baseball:
The boys are out playing ball.
Baseball. a pitched ball, not swung at by the batter, that does not pass over home plate between the batter’s shoulders and knees.

a solid, usually spherical projectile for a cannon, rifle, pistol, etc., as distinguished from a shell.
projectiles, especially bullets, collectively.

any part of a thing, especially of the human body, that is rounded or protuberant:
the ball of the thumb.
a round mass of food, as of chopped meat, dough, or candy.
Slang: Vulgar. a testis.
balls, Slang: Vulgar.

boldness; courage; brashness.
nonsense (often used as an interjection).

bolus (def 1).
Horticulture. a compact mass of soil covering the roots of an uprooted tree or other plant.
Literary. a planetary or celestial body, especially the earth.
Mathematics. (in a metric space) the set of points whose distance from the zero element is less than, or less than or equal to, a specified number.
to make into a ball (sometimes followed by up):
The children were balling up snow to make a snowman.
to wind into balls:
to ball cotton.
Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse with.
to form or gather into a ball:
When the spun sugar balls, the candy has cooked sufficiently.
Slang: Vulgar. to have sexual intercourse.
ball up, Slang. to make or become utterly confused; muddle:
The records had been all balled up by inefficient file clerks.
ball the jack, Slang.

to act with speed.
to stake everything on one attempt.

carry the ball, to assume the responsibility; bear the burden:
You can always count on him to carry the ball in an emergency.
drop the ball, to make a mistake or miss an opportunity at a critical moment.
keep the ball rolling, to continue or give renewed vigor to an activity already under way:
When their interest lagged, he tried to keep the ball rolling.
on the ball,

alert and efficient or effective:
If you don’t get on the ball, you’ll be fired.
indicating intelligence or ability:
The tests show your students don’t have much on the ball. The new manager has a lot on the ball.

play ball,

to begin or continue playing a game.
to start or continue any action.
to work together; cooperate:
union leaders suspected of playing ball with racketeers.

run with the ball, to assume responsibility or work enthusiastically:
If management approves the concept, we’ll run with the ball.
start the ball rolling, to put into operation; begin:
The recreation director started the ball rolling by having all the participants introduce themselves.
Contemporary Examples

Here, a history of Leonardo DiCaprio, the baller, as told through .
Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Dancing & More Baller .GIFs Kevin Fallon June 17, 2013

Ever wonder how words like “twerk” and “baller” find themselves falling awkwardly from the mouths of morning show hosts?
How Does Slang Become Slang? The Daily Beast Video November 11, 2014

Is the art of the Nicki Minaj-style rap something you knew ahead of time that you were a baller at?
How Aidy Bryant Stealthily Became Your Favorite ‘Saturday Night Live’ Star Kevin Fallon October 30, 2014

Historical Examples

The baller is a bulging cylinder having hollow trunnions through which the flame passes.
Scientific American Supplement, No. 613, October 1, 1887 Various

In the baller the iron is very soon made into a ball without manual aid.
Scientific American Supplement, No. 613, October 1, 1887 Various

Mr. baller, a florist of Bloomington, said that of late the demand for plants had fallen off.
Prairie Farmer, Vol. 56: No. 1, January 5, 1884. Various

a spherical or nearly spherical body or mass: a ball of wool
a round or roundish body, either solid or hollow, of a size and composition suitable for any of various games: football, golf, billiards, etc
a ball propelled in a particular way in a sport: a high ball
any of various rudimentary games with a ball: to play ball
(cricket) a single delivery of the ball by the bowler to the batsman
(baseball) a single delivery of the ball by a pitcher outside certain limits and not swung at by the batter

a solid nonexplosive projectile for a firearm Compare shell (sense 6)
such projectiles collectively

any more or less rounded part or protuberance: the ball of the foot
(slang) a testicle See balls
(vet science) another word for bolus
(horticulture) the hard mass of roots and earth removed with the rest of the plant during transplanting
(Austral) ball of muscle, a very strong, fit, or forceful person
have the ball at one’s feet, to have the chance of doing something
keep the ball rolling, to maintain the progress of a project, plan, etc
(informal) on the ball, alert; informed
(informal) play ball, to cooperate
set the ball rolling, start the ball rolling, to open or initiate (an action, discussion, movement, etc)
the ball is in your court, you are obliged to make the next move
(transitive) to make, form, wind, etc, into a ball or balls: to ball wool
(intransitive) to gather into a ball or balls
(taboo, slang, mainly US) to copulate (with)
a social function for dancing, esp one that is lavish or formal
(informal) a very enjoyable time (esp in the phrase have a ball)
John. died 1381, English priest: executed as one of the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt (1381)

“round object,” Old English *beal, from or corresponding to Old Norse bollr “ball,” from Proto-Germanic *balluz (cf. Old High German ballo, German Ball), from PIE root *bhel- (2) “to blow, inflate, swell” (see bole).

Meaning “testicle” is from early 14c. Ball of the foot is from mid-14c. A ball as an object in a sports game is recorded from c.1200; To have the ball “hold the advantage” is from c.1400. To be on the ball is 1912, from sports. Ball-point pen first recorded 1946. Ball of fire when first recorded in 1821 referred to “a glass of brandy;” as “spectacularly successful striver” it is c.1900.

“dancing party,” 1630s, from French, from Old French baller “to dance,” from Late Latin ballare “to dance,” from Greek ballizein “to dance, jump about” (see ballistics). Hence, “very enjoyable time,” 1945, American English slang, perhaps back to 1930s in black slang.

1650s, “make into a ball,” from ball (n.1). Sense of “to become like a ball” is 1713; that of “to copulate” is first recorded 1940s in jazz slang, either from the noun sense of “testicle” or “enjoyable time” (from ball (n.2)). Related: Balled; balling.

ball (bôl)

A spherical object or mass.

A bezoar.

A large pill or bolus.


A testicle; nut (1300s+)
A dollar, esp a silver dollar •Attested in the late 1980s as high-school student use (1890s+ Underworld)
The game of baseball (1860s+)


To do the sex act; copulate with; screw (1940s+ Jazz musicians)
To have an especially good time; enjoy oneself in a relaxed and uninhibited way: A good-time town, where everybody comes to ball (1940s+ Black)

Related Terms

ball up, beanball, butterfly ball, cannonball, carry the load, fireball, forkball, foul ball, get on the ball, go for the long ball, goofball, gopher ball, greaseball, greedball, have a ball, junk-ball, keep one’s eye on the ball, meatball, not get one’s balls in an uproar, nutball, oddball, on the ball, play ball, play catch-up, sleazebag, slimebag, softball, sourball, that’s the way the ball bounces

ball and chain
ball of fire
ball up


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