The meaning and history of the word Punter

I am interested by certain words and by why we call things what we do. Words that interest me in particular are ones that have multiple meanings or seem relatively recent.

I have always considered punter to be one of these words, it feels very British but I couldn’t work out immediately why we as football bettors call ourselves punters.

So prepare yourself for the meaning and history of the word “Punter”


It makes sense to start with a definition, so we are all singing off the same hymn sheet as it were!

Google’s definition of the word Punter;

noun, British, informal

a person who gambles, places a bet, or makes a risky investment.

This helps to solidify the meaning (this is exactly what I thought the definition would be) but it doesn’t help us with the history of the word.

The History of the Word Punter

I had to do some digging to find this, but it appears to have its roots in rugby of all things!

In 1845 it appeared in list of rugby rules, with the context being that you can push or strike the ball.

Digging back a bit further it looks like punt came from the English Midlands word bunt (which means to push or butt with the head).

The leap from the act of punting to punter came in 1888 when the word Punter was first recorded.

The link being of course when you punt a ball you can have some idea of where it is going to go but you can’t be 100% certain.

Other Meanings of the Word Punter

During my research I came across some other meanings for the word, some of which I knew and some of which I didn’t;

  • A prostitute’s client (I guess you could equally call this a risky investment :-))
  • A person who travels in a punt (I had no idea what this is but Scott Edgar very kindly pointed out it is a type of flat boat)

Like a bit of history?

If you enjoyed this article you might like one we’ve created on the history of football.

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