Fair Play: An Etymological, Semantic and Historical Study

Yıldıran İ.

Play Fair!, vol.10, no.1, pp.1-4, 2013 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 10 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Journal Name: Play Fair!
  • Journal Indexes: Other Indexes
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-4


In this study, the concept of fair play, which is considered to be a criteria beyond the rules regulating human virtue and behavior, is examined in terms of its reflections on sports activities of antique, middle and modern ages as well as etymological and semantic development. It is seen that the adjective `fair`, describing the play in the concept of fair play, came from the Indo-Germanic origin and has always had its meaning `aesthetic` even today. It is claimed that the concept first emerged as `foule play`, the sheer opposite of the concept itself, in the 15th century tournaments. The relationship of the concept with the sports was first seen in Shakespeare’s plays in the 17th century. The use of the concept in sports environments first was in the 18th century. The behaviors related to the concept in sports environments date far back to earlier centuries, though. The behaviors reflecting fair play were seen both in Olympics of Antique Age and Medieval Knights Tournaments. However, the modern understanding of fair play occurred in the 19th century of England and the concept was mostly related to socio-cultural structure of the century. More specifically, educational reforms in Public Schools, English Royals` enthusiasm for betting and competition, the law of primogeniture, amateur rules has greatly contributed to the rise, development and dissemination of modern fair play, as it is known today.