Origin of the word
The noun match meaning ‘a small wooden stick that is used to set alight’ probably has its origins in the Greek and Latin word ‘myxa’ denoting ‘lamp wick’ (1). The Vulgar Latin word ‘micca’ or ‘miccia’ was also the source of the Italian ‘miccia’ and the Spanish ‘mecha’ and the Catalan word ‘mexta’. The Old French ‘meiche’ meant ‘a candle wick’ and the word ‘macche’, which carried the same meaning, was also in use in the late 14th century.
In the sense of an ‘attractive combination’ (3) or ‘identical, similar’ (4), match can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic word ‘gamakon’ meaning ‘fitting well together’. In Old English, ‘maecca’ meant ‘an equal, companion, one of a pair.’ In Middle English around 1300, the sense of ‘someone capable of contending with another’ emerged and this led to the interpretation in a sporting context by the 1540s meaning ‘contest’ (2).
Related words: matching, matched, unmatched.
“Huddersfield Town could be forgiven for expecting to win on current form especially after beating Manchester United in their last match at home.” Guardian. 3rd November 2017: Huddersfield Town v West Bromwich Albion: match preview (2).
“Three matches at this year’s Wimbledon triggered alerts for possible match-fixing, the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) revealed on Wednesday. One of the matches was from the main draw and the other two were in the qualifying tournament. They will be assessed and reviewed by the TIU as part of its latest quarterly review, alongside one match from the French Open.” Telegraph. 19 July 2017: Three Wimbledon matches part of latest tennis match-fixing probe (2a).
“The Popplewell inquiry, held three weeks after the disaster, ruled that the fire was started by a spectator dropping a cigarette or a lighted match which ignited rubbish that had accumulated under an old timber stand.” BBC. 6th November 2015: IPCC could investigate Bradford City fire after police referral (1).
“The two were photographed arriving back at the Vancouver airport today in matching jackets.” Elle. 10th October 2017: Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse are the maybe-couple that travels in matching leather jackets (3) (4).
1. a small stick that produces a flame when rubbed against a rough surface, used for lighting a fire, cigarette etc.
2. a game in which players or teams compete against each other, especially in a sport. The usual American word is game.
3. a thing that forms an attractive combination with something else
4. something that looks the same as something else