Why is zero called “love” in tennis?

Why do we say “love” and not “zero” when someone has zero points in tennis?

I Love Tennis with Tennis Ball Heart shirt

The true origin of the term “love” for a score of zero in tennis is hotly disputed.

There are three main theories about how we came to use this romantic  term:

1. The Tomayto/Tomahto Theory


This theory suggests that the term “love” for a tennis score of zero comes from France, where tennis first became really popular.

Since a zero, “0″ resembles an egg, the French called the score: “l’oeuf”.

When tennis became popular in English-speaking countries, the French word “l’oeuf” continued to be used, but due to Anglicisation of the pronunciation, the word evolved into “love”.

2. The “playing for nothing but love” Theory

Tennis is a game that is dearly loved by many players and spectators. One theory suggests that people liked the game so much that they didn’t mind if they got a score of zero, because they played for the love of the game. So if they got zero points, they still had love.

3. The “Lof/ Love” Theory

The final possible origin of the term love is Dutch variation of the “playing for nothing but love” theory.

The theory is that “love” comes from the Dutch word, “lof”.

There is a Dutch phrase that goes: “iets voor lof doen,”, meaning: “to do something for praise”. The idea is that even if you get a score of zero, you still get praise for taking part. Just like we used to be told in kindergarden ;)

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5 Responses to Why is zero called “love” in tennis?

  1. Malinda says:

    You have a great lucidity in your writing. Thanks!

  2. Dave says:

    Im impressed, I need to say. Actually not often do I encounter a blog thats each educative and entertaining, and let me inform you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the difficulty is one thing that not enough people are talking intelligently about. I am very blissful that I stumbled across this in my search for what “love” means.

  3. Kev says:

    Well you learn something new every day, great read :)

  4. toasty redhead says:

    I never thought of the meaning of this phrase until now! well put!

  5. Lisa says:

    Knowledge wants to be free, just like these articles!

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