Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a brown and white African animal that looks like a small deer

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun springbok was borrowed from Afrikaans and Dutch and comes from Dutch words meaning ‘jump’ and ‘antelope’. It was first used in English in the late 18th century and was first applied to the South African national sports teams at the beginning of the 20th century.


As the South African men’s rugby team stormed to victory over England on Saturday in the World Cup final, I doubt if many watching had a mental image of a delicate, bouncing, brown and white antelope with long curved horns. Yet this is the animal the rainbow nation‘s national team is named after. Springboks, Latin name ‘Antidorcas marsupialis’, live on the plains of South Africa and some neighbouring countries where they are notable for their habit of bounding stiff-legged up to two metres into the air, an action known as ‘pronking‘. The Springboks nickname dates from a tour of Britain held in 1906–07, when the team captain Paul Roos chose it in order, apparently, to prevent the British press from inventing their own perhaps less complimentary one. While the choice of such a graceful creature as the symbol for a team playing a sport renowned more for power and strength than for grace or delicacy may seem an odd one, the name has stuck.


“President Cyril Ramaphosa, clad in his Springbok jersey, jetted off to Yokohama, Japan, on the eve of the Rugby World Cup final, to see the Springboks rise up to the challenge of claiming their third championship.”

Related words

antelope, gazelle, impala, okapi

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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