Words in the News


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

The hunt is on for the unknown holder of a EuroMillions lottery ticket worth a cool £76.3 million. All that is known about the mystery winner of the lottery‘s biggest ever unclaimed prize is that they live in the eastern English county of Lincolnshire, in the parliamentary constituency of Boston and Skegness. The winning numbers were drawn on 2 November and the holder has until 1 May to come forward. If no one claims the prize the money and the interest it has earned will go to lottery-funded projects.

Boston, which has little in common with the much larger US city to which it gave its name, is a coastal town and port, while Skegness, also on the coast, was a popular holiday resort for much of the 20th century. It is probably best known for its mascot, the Jolly Fisherman, who featured on railway posters in the early part of the last century together with the slogan ‘Skegness is so bracing’, a reference to the east winds that frequently blow in off the North Sea.

A lottery is a game of chance in which people buy tickets in the hope that the numbers on them will be chosen in the draw, and that they will win a money prize. The way in which the numbers are chosen is completely random, leading to the word’s second meaning, a situation where everything depends on luck or chance. The British term postcode lottery refers to a situation in which people’s access to a service such as health care depends on where they live, because funds are allocated in different ways in different areas. A postcode lottery is emphatically not a good thing, which is why the entry is labelled ‘showing disapproval’. The noun lotto, which is the name given to national and state lotteries in some places, also refers to a game where players try to match numbers on a card to numbers chosen by chance from a container.

Although they look very similar, the words lottery and lotto actually have different origins. While lotto comes from the Italian ‘lotto’ which means ‘lottery’, lottery comes either from the Dutch word ‘loterij’ or the French ‘loterie’.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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