General English


  • noun an indoor game in which a felt-tipped stick is used to hit balls across a cloth-covered table into pockets


  • noun a game involving hitting balls with a long rod on a smooth table covered with green cloth, the object being to hit a white ball so that it sends a ball of another colour into one of the ‘pockets’ at the edge of the table.

Origin & History of “billiards”

Billiard comes from French billard, which is the name not only of the game, but also of the cue it is played with. And the cue is the clue to the word’s history, for it comes from French bille ‘tree trunk’, hence ‘long cylindrical bit of wood’. The import of the -ard suffix is not altogether clear, but another suffix used with bille was the diminutive -ette, from which English got billet ‘piece of wood’ (15th c.) (not to be confused with billet ‘assignment to lodgings’; see (bill)). Bille itself came from medieval Latin billa or billus, which may have been of Celtic origin.