General English


  • noun a cricket team consisting of eleven players. The Laws state that ‘A match is played between two sides each of eleven Players’, with the rider that ‘A match may be played by agreement between sides of more or less than eleven players, but not more than eleven players may field’ (Law 1). Surprisingly, these stipulations date back only as far as the code of 1884. Prior to that it was not unusual to find that, for any given game, the numerical strength of the two sides was specially tailored to produce a reasonably fair contest. For example.
    Citation ‘In September 1856 we had the All-England Eleven at Dublin, where they played Eighteen of Ireland’ (Pullin 1900, pp 71–2)


  • noun a team of 11 players, e.g. a football team or cricket team

Origin & History of “eleven”

Originally, eleven and twelve seem to have meant literally ‘one over’ and ‘two over’. Eleven comes ultimately from a prehistoric Germanic *ainlif- (source also of German elf and Swedish elva) in which the first element *ainaz is ‘one’ and the second is probably related to English leave. The compound would thus have signified ‘one left (over ten)’, hence ‘ten plus one’.