Tennis Scoring Origin: Why is Tennis Scored 15 30 40?

You’ve probably asked yourself why tennis has such weird ways of scoring. What is the tennis scoring origin: why is tennis scored 15 30 40?

Why count like this? Love, 15, 30, and 40 are pretty unconventional ways of determining who the winner is. If you are one of the many that have questioned this way of scoring, you are in the right place. We have searched far and wide to bring all the information we have gathered and given it to you so that you aren’t left puzzled every time you watch a game of tennis.

There is no clear answer as to why tennis is scored this way. However, there are many theories. One very popular theory is that the origins of 15, 30, and 40 are medieval French. Today, we are going to explore the tennis scoring origin together.

tennis score origin old drawing

The History Behind Tennis Scoring

The scoring system of tennis has remained relatively unchanged since the Victorian period. The modern game of tennis can be traced back to the game in the medieval times called “jeu de paume”. This began in the 12th century in France.

Initially, it was played with the palm of the hand. However, this changed in the 16th century when rackets where added. Tennis was a highly popular game around France. By the 16th century, there were over 1000 tennis courts in Paris.

Tennis was seen as very popular amongst the French royalty. Henry VIII was a very good tennis player. However, it was also loved by the commoners and monks. Along with this, the tennis court even featured a huge part in the French Revolution.

An indoor tennis court was the place where the revolutionaries took an oath to not separate forces until the Declaration Of Rights Of Man And Citizen were signed by the king. This was later known as the Tennis Court Oath.

More History Behind Tennis Lingo

The word tennis comes from the French word ‘tenez’. This is the plural imperative form of the verb ‘tenir’, which means ‘to hold’. This translates to “Hold!”, “Take!”, or “Receive!” All are interjections used as a call from the server to indicate to his opponent that he is about to serve.

The piece of equipment used in Tennis called a racket, or racquet is derived from the Arabic word rakhat. This means the palm of the hand.

A commonly used terminology word in tennis is deuce. This originates from “à deux le jeu”, which means “to both is this game.” That is, the two players have equal scores.

tennis scoring origing old photo


Why is Tennis Scored 15 30 40?

And now that we know the theories about the tennis scoring origin, we can explore the most common question: why is tennis scored 15 30 40:

Most popular answer

The origins of 15, 30, and 40 are medieval French. There is a good chance that a clock face was used in court. The 15 is represented on the clock was quarter-past, the 30 reflects half-past, and 45 for quarter-to. Once the players reached 60, the game was over.

Nonetheless, to ensure that the game could not be won by a one-point difference, the idea of ‘deuce‘ was implemented. The score of 45 was changed to 40, to allow the score to stay within the ’60’ ticks of the clock.

tennis scoring origin old photo

Why do they say “deuce” in tennis?

Deuce implies that if both players have 40, the first player to score will move to 50. If a second score is made by the same player, they score 60 and indicates the end of the game.

However, if a player fails to score twice in a row, the clock is moved back to 40 and the deuce starts all over again until a player scores twice in a row and ends the game.


Why Do They Say Love In Tennis?

Love has been a word used since the 1700s which means ‘nothing’. This term is also used in several different racket games as well as card games like whist and bridge. However, much like a lot of elements in Tennis, the origins of why the word ‘love’ is used to describe zero is a mystery.

One theory is that it is derived from the word ‘l’oeuf’, which is the French word for egg. An egg was traditionally used to represent the shape of a zero.

Tennis We Know Today

The game of tennis hit a decline in popularity by the 1800s. The tennis we are familiar with today is an adaptation of lawn tennis. A similar game was introduced in England at the same time. The game was played outdoors on a court that was hourglass-shaped, and points were counted one by one.

However, when the All England Croquet Club set a field aside for the new game and held a championship in 1877 – the first Wimbledon Championship, the new and old rules were combined. The medieval scoring system (15, 30, 40) were part of this reversion to the rules. If you’re planning to visit it, read the following article: Acing it at Wimbledon Championship

Today, the game is still going strong and there are no signs that it will stop. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the watches, there are professional tennis players that are well-respected athletes, millions of fans watch the televised matches and approximately 18 million people play in the US alone.

wimbledon tennis


Final Thoughts

Tennis, a game deeply rooted in history, has intrigued enthusiasts not just with its play but also with its unique scoring system. The progression of 15, 30, and 40 is not just a quirk but a testament to the sport’s rich heritage, drawing connections to ancient numerology and the clocks of bygone eras.

As we dive deep into its origins, we’re reminded that tennis is more than just a sport; it’s a time capsule, preserving centuries-old traditions on modern courts. The next time you hear those scores called out, remember that they’re echoes from the past, connecting generations of tennis lovers through the ages.



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About Mark Bailey

I’m Mark Bailey. I’ve been in the racket sports industry for 11 years and counting! You could say I’m a bit of a racket guru. I have experience with tennis, squash, badminton and table tennis at an international level. My blog is all about providing you with tips to improve your game as well as sharing my experiences from different tournaments around the world. In addition to this, when there’s snow on the ground (in winter) I like to take advantage of it by going snowboarding in France! And even when there’s not any snow left… My Labrador Rocky always needs walking!

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