World Wide Words logo

Conkerer

Pronounced /ˈkɒŋkərə/Help with IPA

A conkerer plays the British game of conkers. A brief description may be desirable for those unfamiliar with it. Conkers has two players, each armed with a nut of the horse chestnut threaded on a string. Players take turns hitting their opponent’s nut with their own. The player whose nut breaks first loses.

Conker is a dialect word that originally meant a snail shell, with which the game was first played, though without the strings (it would be classed as animal cruelty these days, as the shells were frequently still occupied). Frederick Ross described it in A Glossary of Words Used in Holderness in the East-Riding of Yorkshire of 1877: “In the boy’s game of conkers the apexes of two shells are pressed together until one is broken, the owner of the other being the victor.”

Strangely, for a game often considered to be an immemorial part of the English annual round of boy’s games, the snail sense is first recorded only from the early nineteenth century, and the horse chestnuts one from the 1880s.

The word might be from conch, but could equally well be a respelling of conqueror, since the game was often spoken of and spelled that way in the nineteenth century.

Page created 18 Nov. 2006

Support World Wide Words.

Donate by selecting your currency and clicking the button.


Buy anything from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you.

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon USA

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-con2.htm
Last modified: 18 November 2006.