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A game in which two or four people use rackets to hit a ball across a net. A player scores a point when their opponent cannot hit the ball back. Tennis is played on a tennis court.

Origin and usage

The word tennis comes from the Middle English word ‘tenetz’, which was derived from the Old French ‘tenez’ meaning ‘receive, take’. The game that would eventually become tennis was a favourite of French knights in medieval times, and during early versions of the sport the player serving the ball was said to yell ‘Tenetz!’ to his opponent.


Tennis refers to a game typically played by two or four people who use special rackets to hit a small, felt-covered ball back and forth over a net. Singles tennis is played by two people, one on either side of the net. Doubles tennis is played by four people, organized in teams with two players on each side of the net.

Tennis is played on a flat, rectangular surface called a tennis court. The tennis court is divided into sections that tell players where they must stand or hit the ball in order to score points. A waist-high net runs across the length of mid-court, creating two equal sides at either end. Tennis courts are usually made of clay, gravel, grass or artificial turf.

The longest professional tennis match ever played was during the first round of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships between American John Isner and France’s Nicolas Mahut. That match lasted more than 11 hours and was played over three days. In the end, Isner defeated Mahut to advance to the tournament’s second round.


Tennis is a hard sport. There is a lot of competition all year and you play alone.”

(Rafael Nadal)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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