Intermediate+ Word of the Day: punt

punt (noun, verb) /pʌnt/ LISTEN

Punting on the river Cherwell in Oxford (punting is very popular in both Oxford and Cambridge).

In rugby and American football, a punt is a kick in which the ball is dropped and kicked before it touches the ground. To punt therefore means ‘to kick a ball before it touches the ground.’ In soccer, goalies also punt when they send the ball back into play. Informally, in US English, punt means ‘to delay or stall for time’ while thinking of an answer to a question or problem and, in UK English, ‘to sell or promote something in an insistent manner.’ Unrelatedly, a punt is a small boat propelled with a pole and, as a verb, to punt means ‘to push a small boat along with a pole.’

Example sentences

  • The player's punt sent the ball to the other end of the pitch.
  • The player punted the ball to gain some ground.
  • The question caught the politician by surprise and she punted.
  • Jim goes door to door punting encyclopedias.
  • Anne and Mick took a punt out on the river.
  • Rachel punted for all she was worth and finally caught up with the other boats.

Words often used with punt

take punt at something (Australian and New Zealand, informal): try something. Example: “I’m not sure if I can do that, but I’ll take a punt at it.”

In pop culture

It’s important for American football and rugby players to be able to perform a punt well, so here is how you do it:

Additional information

The punt was the monetary unit of the Republic of Ireland, before it joined the euro.

Did you know?

A punt is also a gamble and, as a verb, to punt, often followed by on, means ‘to gamble’ or ‘to speculate.’ So you might say, “I’m having a punt on the Grand National” (the Grand National is a famous horse race in the UK) or “George likes to punt on the stock market.” This meaning originally comes from card games where to punt means ‘to lay a stake against the bank.’ A punter is someone who places bets and, therefore, a customer for a bookmaker. By extension, in UK English, a punter is a customer in general. Example: “Mary’s antique shop isn’t doing very well; she just doesn’t have enough punters.” We even found a song about having a punt in the sense of gambling; you can listen to it here:

Origin

Punt, meaning type of boat, dates back to before the year 1000. Punt can be found in Old English texts, and though there are no examples in Middle English, the word has remained unchanged. It comes from the British Latin noun pontō, meaning a ‘flat bottomed boat’ that was a type of Gallic transport, as well as a ‘floating bridge.’ This noun comes, in turn, from the Latin pontem (bridge), which is also the origin of the English term pontoon and the words for bridge in many Romance languages, such as Spanish (puente), Italian (ponte) and French (pont). The related verb comes from the noun. The more common sense of punt, ‘to kick a dropped ball,’ dates back to the mid-19th century. Its origin is uncertain. Some linguists believe that it comes from the boating-related verb, and is a figurative use of the idea of propelling a boat by shoving it. Others, however, say it comes from the Midlands dialect verb punt or bunt, meaning ‘to push or strike.’ The figurative senses related to this verb all appeared in the 20th century.

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