"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.
A spherical object or mass.
A large pill or bolus.
Skillful, alert, and effective; with it: FBI agents were very much on the ball in the Bremer snatchRelated Terms
[1912+; fr the advisability of keeping one's eyes on the ball when playing a ball game]
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