game (n.) c. 1200, from Old English gamen “joy, fun; game, amusement,” common Germanic (cognates: Old Frisian game “joy, glee,” Old Norse gaman “game, sport; pleasure, amusement,” Old Saxon gaman, Old High German gaman “sport, merriment,” Danish gamen, Swedish gamman “merriment”), said to be identical with Gothic gaman “participation, communion,” from Proto-Germanic *ga- collective prefix + *mann “person,” giving a sense of “people together.” The -en was lost perhaps through being mistaken for a suffix. Meaning “contest for success or superiority played according to rules” is first attested c. 1200 (of athletic contests, chess, backgammon). Especially “the sport of hunting, fishing, hawking, or fowling” (c. 1300), thus “wild animals caught for sport” (c. 1300), which is the game in fair game (see under fair (adj.)), also gamey. Meaning “number of points required to win a game” is from 1830. Game plan is 1941, from U.S. football; game show first attested 1961. also from c. 1200 game (adj.1) “lame,” 1787, from north Midlands dialect, of unknown origin, perhaps a variant of gammy (tramps’ slang) “bad,” or from Old North French gambe “leg” (see gambol (n.)). also from 1787 game (adj.2) “ready for action, unafraid, and up to the task;” probably literally “spirited as a game-cock,” 1725, from game-cock “bird bred for fighting” (1670s), from game (n.) in the “sport, amusement” sense. Middle English adjectives gamesome, gamelich meant “joyful, playful, sportive.” also from 1725 game (v.) Middle English gamen “to sport, joke, jest,” from Old English gamenian “to play, jest, joke;” see game (n.). The Middle English word is little recorded from c. 1400 and modern use for “to play at games” (1520s) probably is a new formation from the noun; and it might have been re-re-coined late 20c. in reference to computer games. Related: Gamed; gaming.
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