Where Does the Term Ping Pong Come From?

Saying the name, Ping Pong is oddly deceptive. It doesn’t allow you to assume its origin. Although it is the national game of China, those who think that the source of the name is Chinese are wrong.

You’d likely be surprised to learn British military officers enjoyed the earliest form of the ping pong game in the 1860s. By the late 1800s, wealthier families in Victorian England caught on. It became a bit of after-dinner fun for them, played on the dinner table after meal remnants were removed.

How did the name Ping Pong come about?

A long and rich history evolved from those after-dinner games. When it comes to the name, the who and where it was played had nothing to do with it. No, it was the game’s sounds as the bat strikes the ball that led to the name Ping Pong. However, this did not happen until 1901, when a light celluloid ball was created by James W. Gibb. Historians say the tightness of the paddle coverings determined whether it would produce a ping or a pong sound.

Were there other names used for the game?

The game became popular, and various companies began marketing game sets, including balls, bats and nets. Each manufacturer chose a different name. Box sets with names like Gossima, Whiff Waff, Pim-Pam, Pom-Pom and many others were available.

So, who chose “Ping-Pong?”

  1. Jaques & Son Ltd. wasted no time in registering a trademark in the U.K. for the name Ping Pong in 1901. Subsequently, Parker Brothers, Inc., a U.S. company, purchased the rights to the registered name in 1930. Parker Brothers registered the name Ping-Pong — with a hyphen. It remains the wordmark of Parker Brothers, Inc. even today. With the name Ping pong all tied up, other organizations had no option but to refer to the game as Table Tennis.

In a nutshell

The two winners in the name-choosing competition ultimately formed The Ping Pong Association and The Table Tennis Association. Ping Pong seems the most popular name for this fun game. However, when a governing body was established to oversee regulations and rules in 1926, Ping Pong was already a registered trademark. They had to go with The International Table Tennis Federation.

Riley Draper

Avid table tennis player, world traveler, and content creator. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn.