Where Does Shuttlecock Get Its Name From?

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Have you ever wondered why the shuttlecock is called the shuttlecock? Why not just a badminton ball? As it turns out, like the sport that it is used for, the shuttlecock also has a rich origin. In this short guide, we’ll share with you the history of the shuttlecock’s name.

The name shuttlecock originated back in the 16th century by combining the words “shuttle” and “cock.” Shuttlecocks usually have feathers that resemble a “cock” or a rooster and are “shuttled” between opponents during games, which is where the name came from.

Shuttled Rooster
A rooster (“cock”) shuttled between opponents

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Who Came Up With the Name Shuttlecock?

A term meaning “shuttlecock” was first used by the Chinese and in other ancient Asian countries such as India and Thailand, which was then known as Siam. In fact, it was the Chinese that invented the shuttlecock’s first iteration of the ball, which also basically meant shuttlecock in modern-day English.

Badminton, as we know it today, is the latest evolution of the long line of sports that use a racket and a ball. As said before, the shuttlecock (or at least its earlier versions) was used to pass the time.

The earliest record of the word shuttlecock itself can be traced back to the 1500s. This is a word that was invented by combining two separate words in the Old English language. The word shuttle was used because of the back-and-forth movement of the ball to and from the opposite sides of the court. Think about a traditional shuttle that delivers goods and people to and from different places. This word is derived from the Old English “scytel” which means missile or dart.

"Scytel" Dart over the Net
A dart (“scytel”) flying over the net

The second half of the word, “cock,” basically means a bird, because of the ball’s nature to fly through the air and the use of feathers on the ball’s design.

In the 1500s, the sports battledore and shuttlecock grew in popularity in England and its colonies, which is where the name came from.

What Is the Original Name of a Shuttlecock?

Very few people actually know the original name of the shuttlecock itself.

Some think that it came from the same origin story of badminton, but in reality, the shuttlecock existed long before the first iteration of the sport came to be.

In ancient Greece, we see drawings depicting people playing a game with a shuttlecock two thousand years ago, but it was the Chinese who baptized the ball with the name “Ti Jian Zhi,” which means kicking the shuttle. This Chinese game’s goal is to kick the shuttle as long as you can until it falls down onto the ground.


While the sport does not use a racquet (you are kicking the ball, after all), Ti Jian Zhi was the first-ever recorded name of the shuttlecock itself.

Kicking the Shuttlecock
“Ti Jian Zhi” – Kicking the Shuttle

What Are the Different Names for a Shuttlecock?

Badminton is so popular that it has become a global sport and an Olympic medal event.

Because of this, it comes as no surprise that the famous sport’s ball might be called a couple of different names.

Some people call the shuttlecock a “shuttle” instead of using the whole name of the ball, largely because of how it is played. It’s just a shorter form of the actual word.

On the other hand, some people call the shuttlecock a “birdie” or a “bird” because of the feathers that are usually attached to the ball. It flies, it has feathers, and it’s small, that’s why people think that it makes perfect sense to call it so — just like the “cock” part of the name itself.

When Did the Shuttlecock Get Its Official Name? 

When you think about badminton and its origins, there are several instances to consider. You might think about the Chinese game we mentioned earlier or the Indian game Poona in Pune, India. The shuttlecock was not yet the official name at the time.

Fast forward to a party held at the Duke of Beaufort, where Poona was played by England’s social elites. A few years after its introduction, the Bath Badminton Club was created in 1877 where the first standards and rules were created for badminton, including the first official record of the name of the sport’s ball, the shuttlecock.

Badminton then became increasingly popular in other nations, leading to its inclusion in the Olympics as a medal event.

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