The Origin of the Word Bingo

Where Bingo Originated

Bingo is a word we use for many things today. Sure it’s a game, but it’s a word we use to mean all types of things these days, from saying something is correct to being a real exclamation.

Of course, here at Moon Bingo, it’s the game we know and love, but how did bingo get its name?

Well, there are many theories about the origin of the word bingo and how the game got its name and below you’ll find more on the various stories behind the word.

How Did Bingo Get Its Name?

If you think about the game bingo, there are two different meanings for it. There’s the game itself, so the likes of 75-ball and 90-ball are variations of the game bingo. And then there’s the term you shout at the end of a game. But which came first?

It’s almost a chicken and egg situation. Is the game called bingo because that’s what people began to shout when they won, or is the reason we shout it because it’s the name of the game?

Sadly, it is something we’ll never be quite sure about as the two terms began to appear in print at around the same time.

However, there are clues as to why both are called bingo. The word bingo could date back to the 1920s where the word “bing” was commonly used to indicate a sudden action. For example, James Joyce uses the word in Ulysses, writing, “Now I do the kind of thing on the wing, on the wing! Bing!”.

That interjection is widely regarded as the reason why bingo is called bingo, and many started to associate it with early British slang, in which customs officers would cry out the word “bingo” if they were to find something in a successful search.

Other theories associate the term with brandy, and a drinking game formed by Thomas Chandler Haliburton in the USA. This would involve singing a song about a farmer’s dog, a song we are all familiar with, and when it came to the spelling of the dog, each participant must take a letter and if anyone missed a letter they would have to drink, although this theory is less supported.

Either way, the popularity of people calling it bingo started to rise in the 1920s. This was due to the rise of carnivals and fairs across the UK and America, and it’s largely believed that Hugh J. Ward was the first to use “bingo” to describe the game.

He would use the exclamation to grab the attention of fair goers and spread the word of bingo. Since then it’s become universally associated with the game and it’s perhaps fair to say we now couldn’t imagine it being called anything else!

It’s incredibly interesting, especially considering the game itself dates back to the 1600s, and in that respect, it’s been a relatively short period of the game’s history in which we’ve named it bingo. But today, it’s a name set in stone and one that will live forever.

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