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A ball is a round object with various uses. It is usually spherical but can be ovoid. It is used in ball games, where the play of the game follows the state of the ball as it is hit, kicked or thrown by players. Balls can also be used for simpler activities, such as catch, marbles and juggling. Balls made from hard-wearing metal are used in engineering applications to provide very low friction bearings, known as ball bearings.

Although many types of balls are today made from rubber, this form was unknown outside the Americas until after the voyages of Columbus. The Spanish were the first Europeans to see bouncing rubber balls (albeit solid and not inflated) which were employed most notably in the Mesoamerican ballgame. Balls used in various sports in other parts of the world prior to Columbus were made from other materials such as animal bladders or skins, stuffed with various materials.

Etymology

The first known use of the word ball in English in the sense of a globular body that is played with was in 1205 in in the phrase, " " The word came from the Middle English bal (inflected as ball-e, -es, in turn from Old Norse böllr ( ; compare Old Swedish baller, and Swedish boll) from Proto-Germanic ballu-z, (whence probably Middle High German bal, ball-es, Middle Dutch bal), a cognate with Old High German ballo, pallo, Middle High German balle from Proto-Germanic *ballon (weak masculine), and Old High German ballâ, pallâ, Middle High German balle, Proto-Germanic *ballôn (weak feminine). No Old English representative of any of these is known. (The answering forms in Old English would have been beallu, -a, -e -- compare bealluc, ballock.) If ball- was native in Germanic, it may have been a cognate with the Latin foll-is in sense of a "thing blown up or inflated." In the later Middle English spelling balle the word coincided graphically with the French balle "ball" and "bale" which has hence been erroneously assumed to be its source. French balle (but not boule) is assumed to be of Germanic origin, itself, however.

History

A ball, as the essential feature in nearly every form of game requiring physical exertion, must date from the very earliest times. A rolling object appeals not only to a human baby but to a kitten and a puppy. Some form of game with a ball is found portrayed on Egyptian monuments, and is played among aboriginal tribes at the present day. In Homer, Nausicaa was playing at ball with her maidens when Odysseus first saw her in the land of the Phaeacians (Od. vi. 100). And Halios and Laodamas performed before Alcinous and Odysseus with ball play, accompanied with dancing (Od. viii. 370). The Hebrew have no mention of the ball in their scriptures.

Ancient Greeks

Among the Greeks games with balls (σφαῖραι) were regarded as a useful subsidiary to the more violent athletic exercises, as a means of keeping the body supple, and rendering it graceful, but were generally left to boys and girls. Of regular rules for the playing of ball games, little trace remains, if there were any such. The names in Greek for various forms, which have come down to us in such works as the Ὀνομαστικόν of Pollux of Naucratismarker, imply little or nothing of such; thus, ἀπόρραξις only means the putting of the ball on the ground with the open hand, οὐρανία, the flinging of the ball in the air to be caught by two or more players; φαινίνδα would seem to be a game of catch played by two or more, where feinting is used as a test of quickness and skill. Pollux (i. x. 104) mentions a game called ἐπίσκυρος, which has often been looked on as the origin of football. It seems to have been played by two sides, arranged in lines; how far there was any form of "goal" seems uncertain.

Ancient Romans

Among the Romans, ball games were looked upon as an adjunct to the bath, and were graduated to the age and health of the bathers, and usually a place (sphaeristerium) was set apart for them in the baths (thermae). There appear to have been three types or sizes of ball, the pila, or small ball, used in catching games, the paganica, a heavy ball stuffed with feathers, and the follis, a leather ball filled with air, the largest of the three. This was struck from player to player, who wore a kind of gauntlet on the arm. There was a game known as trigon, played by three players standing in the form of a triangle, and played with the follis, and also one known as harpastum, which seems to imply a "scrimmage" among several players for the ball. These games are known to us through the Romans, though the names are Greek.

Modern ball games

The various modern games played with a ball or balls and subject to rules are treated under their various names, such as polo, cricket, football, &c.

Images

Image:Soccer ball.jpg|The official match football of the 2006 FIFA World CupImage:RadZepMov_soccer_hires_computed_tomography_shoe_and_ball_color.jpeg|Computed tomography of a football (Video)Image:Cricket-ball-red-madeinaustralia.jpg|Cricket ballImage:Baseball (crop).jpg|BaseballImage:Basketball.png|BasketballImage:Billiards balls.jpg|Billiard ballsImage:Brine lax ball.jpg|Lacrosse ballImage:Sherrin.png|Australian rules footballImage:DSC 0313.JPG|Tennis ballImage:Wilson American football.jpg|American FootballImage:Rugbyball2.jpg|rugby union

Image:Golfball.jpg|Golf ball next to a holeImage:Softball.jpg|SoftballImage:BaodingQigong.JPG|Baoding Balls

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