Etymology – the word casino, where does that come from?

pile of booksThe word casino, where does that come from? Ask a random passer-by. Then chances are that he or she of course says that it is an English word. With the word Casino, we soon think of Las Vegas, the gambling city that is also common in movies.

The word according to etymologists

The etymological dictionary, with the origin of words, from Van Veen and Van der Sijs from 1997 contains the following:

casino (building for gambling, parties) {1824} <italian casino (house, pleasure house, play house), reduction form of casa (house) <latin casa (hut, house, shelter).

And Philippa and others write in their dictionary from 2009 about the first location of the word: The first casino (in the contemporary sense of the word) to appear in texts is Casino dei Nobili in Florence (1775).

It is indeed from Italian. But there is still something more to say …

Side room to gamble

In the article about the Ridotto, we read that a side room of a theater was called ridotto. In those rooms, ridotti, gambling was done and the first casino, in 1638, was named after it.

The first gambling facility, officially approved by the government, became increasingly opposed in the mid-18th century. Respectable families went bankrupt, people cheated there and more and more "mobs" arrived. The government still supported the Ridotto, but no longer wholeheartedly, until 1780.

Gambling opportunity at home

Of course, illegal gambling opportunities had always remained, along with the official Ridotto. But all kinds of people came there. Around 1750, wealthy citizens looked for new gambling opportunities. They found it at home in the beginning, in their own house. Most of the time, they often played in a branch, garden house or the second house in the countryside.

the word casino origin

Passage to the club of the notables in Venice

Such a small house was called a "casin", plural casini. It was mainly women who gave gambling opportunities there. However, men gradually organized their own environment. They jointly rented or bought an opportunity in the city and started a club there. There they could gamble, but also read a book or have a conversation with like-minded people. Such a club was called "casin dei nobili".

The word casino

Casino is no more than the masculine word that belongs to casino. Like casina is the feminine word. The men's clubs, as referred to above, were therefore sometimes referred to as "casino dei nobili". Gradually, "dei nobili" was omitted.

At the end of the 18th century, the word casino was more or less common in Italy. It then took some time before it became synonymous with a gambling opportunity, as we now use it. In addition, Ridotto was also used and sometimes even "Ritrove e Ridotto" (meeting and decision).

Casa

The word Casino therefore comes from casin and that in itself is derived from casa. But does its origin lie in Latin? Several language researchers now think that it was taken by the Romans from Northern Europe. It would have a Celtic origin.

The Romans themselves used the word Domus for their (country) houses. They had different names for simpler houses. But not casa. They used that for the wooden houses with thatched roofs that they found at Asterix and Obelix in Gaul.

In 2012, some language discoveries were made in Spain, which also knows the word Casa. They now also point to the Celts. And the Greek. That would have influenced Iberian, a language spoken in ancient times in Spain and Portugal.

Casino

But how did the word casino proceed? In other countries, the word casino also gradually became known, but not immediately in its current sense. The description in an English dictionary from 1800 is: a clubhouse or public building on the continent, provided with rooms for social meetings, music, dancing, billiards etc. (a clubhouse or public building on the mainland …).

In the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1849 only the card game casino is described. And the Oxford Dictionary of 1923 writes at casino: summer house (in Italy) 1831; a public room for social meetings; a public music or dancing saloon 1789; a game of cards, see Cassino.

Gambling is only mentioned much later in these and other dictionaries.

In France they used the word case for a small house. Around 1850 they knew casino as an Italian word, for a tower that they themselves called Guèrite.

A tower

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From Military dictionary 1833

That meaning of the word Casino is military. In the Italian military dictionary of Grassi from 1833 it says at Casino:

A round or polygonal tower made of bricks or wood, which was usually placed on the outer corners of fortifications. As a result, the sentry who was inside was able to look into the ditch and around it through a few meshes cut into pieces at eye level. Nowadays, by casino we mean every small round tower, square or polygon, usually made of wood, that serves as a shelter for a sentry.

You can perhaps imagine a sentinel's house. Upon seeing that, the association with a square casino bread is also quickly made.

Casino as a gambling opportunity

When the word casino became commonplace as a gambling opportunity name, it is difficult to determine precisely. In France the word casino came into the language around 1850. But it was mainly used as the name of a club or village house and even as a theater, such as at the Cadet Casino in Paris.

The Casino de Monte-Carlo was opened in 1863. But that was also more than a gambling opportunity. It had a club idea with a theater, restaurant and opportunity to meet.

In other countries, areas and cities, other names were first given to gambling opportunities. In England people used to stick to club rather than casino. At the beginning of the 20th century, the word Casino as a gambling opportunity was introduced to America by Italian immigrants.

Sources

  • Various dictionaries have been used as a source in several languages, but especially Italian ones.
  • In addition, some old books about Venice and Florence
  • On the Roman use of Casa for Gallic huts, see for example the reports of Julius Caesar in his De Bello Gallico. In book 4 he writes: Septimo oppugnationis that maximo coorto wind fervent fusili ex clay glandes fundis et fervefacta iacula in casas , quae more Gallico stramentis erant tectae, iacere coeperunt … (On the seventh day of the attack, …, on the cabins and … that is more the Gallic custom, with reeds …)

More etymology

After discovering where the word "casino" comes from, the word "gambling" can of course not be left behind. Read on immediately!

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