Word Origin & History
O.E. feld "plain, open land" (as opposed to woodland), also "a parcel of land marked off and used for pasture or tillage," probably related to O.E. folde "earth, land," from P.Gmc. *felthuz "flat land," from PIE *pel(e)-tu-, from base *pele- "flat, to spread" (cf. L. planus "flat, level," O.C.S. polje
"field;" see plane
(1)). Common W.Gmc. (cf. O.Fris. feld, M.H.G. velt, Ger. Feld), but not found outside it (Sw. fält, Dan. felt are borrowed from Ger.), though Finnish pelto "field" is believed to have been adapted from P.Gmc. The Eng. spelling with -ie- is probably the work of Anglo-Fr. scribes. The verb meaning "to go out to fight" is 16c., from the n. in the sense of "battlefield" (c.1300). Collective use for "all engaged in a sport" (or, in horseracing, all but the favorite) is 1742; play the field "avoid commitment" (1936) is from notion of gamblers betting on other horses than the favorite. The verb meaning "to stop and return the ball" is first recorded 1823, originally in cricket; figurative sense is from 1902. Field day (1747) was originally a day of military exercise and review; fig. sense is from 1827.