Where does the word Bingo Originate from?

If you have never heard of the term ‘etymology’, you will be interested to note that this refers to the study of words, their origin and innate history. Through this study, you can review some of the world’s most incredible and famous words, as you explore their heritage and learn precisely where they came from. You can also study words that now relate to games or popular pastimes, with ‘bingo’ providing a prominent and interesting example.

The Origin of the word Bingo: An Uncertain and Intriguing Industry
While we know that the game of bingo originated during Italy in the 16th century, the history of the word itself is shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. Interestingly, the emergence of bingo as a lottery game in the 1500’s offers no clue to the origins of the word, simply because the pastime has been known by multiple references on a regional basis. So while multiple variations of the game has been played in nations such as the UK, Italy and Germany, it has always been attributed an alternative name.


To answer this query and gain an insight into the word ‘bingo’, we must look instead to the American market. It is here that the word is believed to have originated, and while there is no satisfactory or conclusive support for this the majority of viable theories revolve around the U.S. The most likely of all describes the word ‘bingo’ as ‘an exclamation of sudden realisation or surprise’ which was attested back in 1923. This is compatible with the definition in the American Heritage Dictionary, and could well explain the use of the word to describe the game.

A Question of the Chicken and the Egg
Is this a case of the chicken and the egg, however? In accepting this definition, we are assuming that the origin of the word inspired its use within the game, whereas there is an argument to suggest that these descriptions have been applied after bingo has emerged as a globally popular pastime.

If this is the case, where else could this word have originated from? Interestingly, there is a loose and largely unproven connection with the slang word for ‘brandy’ (or liquor as attested in an American English dictionary from 1861). This word was used in a song that is attributed to a drinking game from the mid-19th century, and this may have forged a connection with bingo through a combination of the game with the consumption of alcohol.

Last updated: Jan 24, 2023

Lillian Grey

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Lillian Grey is a long time online bingo and slots player who started putting her thoughts down on digitial paper around 2008. Having been covering the industry for quite some time, she is able to spot the good from the bad when it comes to online bingo. An ever present at indsutry conferences and events, Lillian likes to meet fellow bingo enthusiasts to share stories and ideas, with maybe a glass of wine (or two) involved! When not covering the ever changing world of online bingo, she likes to read a good book and go for family walks in the forest.

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