ball1 /bɔːl/


I. noun

1. a solid or hollow spherical or egg-shaped object that is kicked, thrown, or hit in a game

a cricket ball.
2. a spherical object or mass of material

a ball of wool
he crushed the card into a ball.
‹historical› a solid spherical non-explosive projectile for a cannon.

the ship fired again—this time the ball made a hit.
4. [ mass noun] a game played with a ball

he comes across a group of kids playing ball.
5. [ mass noun]
(N. Amer.) baseball

young men would graduate from college and enter pro ball.
6. a single throw, kick, or hit of the ball in a game, in particular:
[Cricket] a delivery of the ball by the bowler to the batsman.

his half century came off only forty balls.
[Baseball] a pitch delivered outside the strike zone which the batter does not attempt to hit.

he ignored it completely, and the umpire called it a ball.
[Soccer] a pass of the ball in a specified direction or manner

Whelan sent a long ball to Goddard.
II. verb [with obj.]

1. squeeze or form (something) into a rounded shape

Robert balled up his napkin and threw it on to his plate.
2. clench (one’s fist) tightly.

she balled her fist so that the nails dug into her palms.
3. [no obj.] form a round shape

the fishing nets eventually ball up and sink.
4. wrap the root ball of (a tree or shrub) in hessian to protect it during transportation.
(N. Amer.)
‹vulgar slang› have sexual intercourse with (someone).
6. [no obj.]
(Brit.) (of a flower) fail to open properly, decaying in the half-open bud.
III. phrases

1. the ball is in your court
it is up to you to make the next move.

the ball is firmly in the court of the EC Commission.
2. a ball of fire
a person who is full of energy and enthusiasm.
3. the ball of the foot
the rounded protuberant part of the foot at the base of the big toe.
4. the ball of the thumb
the rounded protuberant part of the hand at the base of the thumb.
5. have a lot (or not much) on the ball

(US) have a lot of (or not much) ability.
6. keep the ball rolling
maintain the momentum of an activity.
7. keep one’s eye on (or take one’s eye off) the ball
keep (or fail to keep) one’s attention focused on the matter in hand.

opinion pollsters led everyone to take their eyes off the ball.
8. on the ball
aware of and quick to respond to new ideas and methods.

maintaining contact with customers keeps me on the ball.
9. play ball

‹informal› work willingly with others; cooperate

if his solicitors won’t play ball, there’s nothing we can do.
10. start (or get or set) the ball rolling
cause something to start happening.

to start the ball rolling, the government was asked to contribute a million pounds to the fund.
11. the whole ball of wax

(N. Amer.)
‹informal› everything.
– origin Middle English: from Old Norse bǫllr, of Germanic origin.

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