• A Basque or Spanish game played in a walled court with a ball and basket-like rackets fastened to the hand.
  • The ball used in such games as pelota and jai alai.

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Example Sentences

“We need a new pelota for the tournament next weekend.”

“The pelota court is shut down for the season.”

“My dad is going to be watching pelota games on TV all weekend.”

Word Origin

Spanish, early 19th century

Why this word?

In Spanish, “pelota” means “ball,” but this word is also the name of a game played with that ball and rackets shaped like baskets (called “cinta”) attached to the players’ hands. The sport acquired the name “jai alai” (which translates to “merry festival” from the Basque language) when it came to Cuba in 1910. Pelota and jai alai have ancient roots in the Basque culture (an ethnic group and geographic region spread across France and Spain), but the fast-paced sport gained worldwide popularity in the early to mid-20th century. As players race across the walled three-sided court, hurling the pelota with the cinta, the pelota can reach speeds above 150 mph. The pelota is traditionally made of hard rubber, covered in leather, and is just smaller than a baseball, but harder than a golf ball.

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