Casino Terminology: How Were the Terms Coined?

From Sweepstake to Ante: Unearthing Origins of Gambling Terms

The casino world is packed with interesting jargon and slang that have become second nature to gamblers. If you are an avid casino fan or just dipping your toes in the gambling world, it’s a great idea to delve into the roots of some of the most popular terms in the expansive scene. And that’s why we are here today. So, whether you are into gambling in land-based lobbies in Vegas or Macau or prefer online action on leading iGaming platforms such as HitnSpin casino, you are in for an intriguing read.

Why Is It Important to Understand the Origin of Casino Terms?

Some of the benefits of familiarising yourself with the origins of gambling-related lingo include:

  • Learning the origins of terminologies helps you appreciate the historical and cultural background that the said casino terms have experienced;
  • With insight into these terms’ socio-cultural background, greater meaning is attached to these terms as opposed to them being mere jargon;
  • After understanding the roots of gambling terms, you’ll likely feel more connected to the gaming experience, drawing you closer to the process;
  • If you’re working in the casino industry, the knowledge of how these terms were coined gives you an advantage in how you relate to the players;
  • You’ll come across as a knowledgeable person who’s quite astute in understanding their craft as a gambler or a gambling industry worker.

Whatever your reason for learning the origin of these terms, we’ve got you covered. Here’s an overview of the cradle of six popular terminologies used in the gambling realm.


The word “jackpot” originates from the early 1800s in the game of cards. After cards were dealt to participating players, the participants added an equal amount to the stack of wagered cash referred to as the “pot.” No one could touch the pot until their hand comprised two jacks or better.

If no one possessed such a hand, the round would commence again, and more money would be added to the pot, and the cards would be dealt once again. Since the money in the pot was inaccessible until one of the players landed two jacks, the term “jackpot” was coined to refer to the collected money in the pot.


The etymology of the term “slot” can be traced back to the slot or opening where players inserted and received their coins. As for the equivalent of the word “slot machine” in a British context, the “fruit machine” draws its origin from the first slot machines in Britain, which predominantly had fruit symbols instead of poker card symbols.

One-Armed Bandit

Sticking to slot machines, you may have heard them referred to as one-armed bandits. The one-armed bandit term can trace its roots back to San Francisco in 1895. There are a few theories on why slot machines are sometimes called in such a way.

We’ll go by the most popular of these theories, which states that the early slot machines contained a lever to their sides, which the player would need to pull – an action that would subsequently spin the reels. That explains the “one-armed” bit of the word.

On the other hand, the bandit part of the word describes the “thieving” aspect of slot machines. During the 1800s, the predominant feeling among the masses was that slot machines were “stealing,” especially since not many understood the concept of the in-house edge that is still in use to date.


The term sweepstakes was initially used in the 14th century to mean someone who “sweeps” or takes the entire prize in a competition. The Oxford Dictionary states that this term was widely used between the 15th and 17th centuries as the name of many ships, often in a war scenario where they would sweep victory. In present gambling times, it has been primarily used to refer to horse races where if your horse wins, your team sweeps or takes the entirety of the prize money.


This is a wager made by a player before cards are dealt in a poker game. The term was loosely used in the 1800s as a derivative of the Latin word “ante,” which means “before.” So, in a poker situation, this word is used when players are required to contribute equally to the game by wagering money in a pot before the game commences.


Many historians agree that “blackjack” is an evolution of the early game called “twenty-one,” which was embraced in America in the 18th century by French Colonialists. While the exact moment that the term “blackjack” displaced “21” is unknown, historians believe that the name broke through in the middle of World War 1 when casinos offered lucrative payouts to their players. The players won with the initial hand consisting of the ace of spades and a black jack. So, in this case, the black jack was the jack of clubs or spades. So, essentially, the player’s mission in the game was attaining the black jack.

Words With History

Chances are you’ll probably never learn the etymology of all existing gambling terminology. However, what you’ve learnt today will give you a pretty good head start on understanding the origin of some popular casino lingo. So, as you spin reels, roll dice, or flip cards, remember that many terms carry a meaning with lots of history behind them. Do you know some exciting origins of popular casino terms? Drop a comment right here in the comments section!

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