Racket - Racquet

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Racket and racquet form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these.

Both are pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, 'RACK-it', {{IPA|ˈræk ə (or ɪ)t.

Confusion between the two spellings is compounded by the fact that habits (and advice) vary, not only between the two sides of the Atlantic, but between different House Rules. AWE's advice is as laid out here, to use the spelling with '-q-' for meanings to do with sports, and the spelling with'-k-' for all other meanings. This preference is in accordance with etymological prejudice, and old-fashioned education. If your teacher, or house rules, choose otherwise, respect that choice. It should be noted that the official Rules of Tennis (https://www.itftennis.com/media/277489/277489.pdf) spell the implement as racket, while the French equivalent is raquette; as do the World Squash Federation (http://www.worldsquash.org/ws/rackets-balls/racket-specs) and the UK Tennis & Rackets Association (https://www.tennisandrackets.com/), while the Us equivalent is the North American Racquets Association.

  • A racquet is an implement used in various ball games, such as tennis and squash, to hit the ball. It has a variously sized head, consisting of a flat roughly circular hoop, strung with a number of strings at right angles to each other, kept at an appropriate tension to play the ball, in accordance with its characteristics, in the spirit of the sport.
    • The game of racquets and its descendant squash (more formally 'squash racquets') are played on indoor courts, bouncing the ball off the walls rather than hitting it directly towards an opponent over a net, as in tennis.
Etymological note: racquet seems to be derived from a middle French rachette or rascette, from a late Latin racheta. This may be derived from Arabic rāha, 'palm of the hand'. Paradoxically, the game of fives which is played, like racquets, on an indoor court but without a racquet - the (hard) ball is propelled by the hand, which may but need not be gloved - is not named from the Arabic for 'hand', though its derivation has often (improbably) been suggested to be from the slang expression 'a bunch of fives' to mean a fist (of the five fingers).
  • The spelling racket is used for the sporting implement in Australia and the USA. AWE prefers to restrict it to the following meanings:
    • a racket, originally a riot or similar disturbance, is now a noise, with strong connotations of discordancy and loudness, applied for example to drums and trumpets, warfare, traffic and excited social gatherings. OED's primary definition is "Uproar, disturbance, esp. as resulting from noisy or disorderly behaviour; din, cacophony, excessive or obtrusive noise".
    • Racket is used in slang to mean a dishonest or fraudulent, essentially criminal, enterprise. 'The extortion racket' is a name for blackmail; 'protection racket' for the practice of 'insuring' property against the violence threatened by the 'insurer'; the 'snatch racket' for kidnapping; the 'numbers racket' for illegal gambling. The racket in the USA is prostitution.
Etymological note: the origin of the word is unclear. OED suggests it is imitative.
      • A racketeer has been, since 1924, a person engaged in organized crime.
      • Racketeering has been used since 1926 to mean various froms of organised crime. In 1970, the US Congress enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which made racketeering a criminal offence.