Have you ever wondered how lacrosse, the sport we know and love today, was originally named? Believe it or not, there is a long and fascinating history behind the game's inception.

Dating back to hundreds of years ago, lacrosse has been part of many different cultures—but even so, its original name remains shrouded in mystery. Come join us as we journey through time to uncover what this beloved sport was once called!

Table of Contents

The Original Name

What Lacrosse Was Originally Called

The game we now know as lacrosse was originally called "Baggataway" or "Tewaarathon" by the indigenous tribes of North America. This sport was more than just a game; it was a significant part of their culture and traditions.

Meaning of the Original Name

"Baggataway," as it was known to the Anishinaabe tribe, translates to "bump hips," which gives us an insight into how the game was played. On the other hand, "Tewaarathon," the name used by the Iroquois tribe, means "little brother of war." This reflects the game's original purpose as a training exercise for warriors.

Different Names in Different Cultures

Apart from "Baggataway" and "Tewaarathon," the game was known by various names among different tribes. For example, the Ojibwe referred to it as "Baaga`adowe," while the Sauk called it "Makazinsikweyaash." Each of these names has its own special story and meaning behind it.

No matter what the original names were, the game has been played for centuries and still continues to be popular among many cultures today.

Even though lacrosse may have had a different name hundreds of years ago, the spirit of the game remains unchanged. It is an excellent way for people to come together, stay healthy, and have fun.

The Origins of Lacrosse

Who Invented Lacrosse and Where

Lacrosse was invented by the indigenous peoples of North America. It has been documented as being played by eastern Woodlands tribes and by some Plains Indian tribes in what is now Canada and the United States. The exact origins of the game are unknown, but it dates back hundreds of years.

Roots: Exploring the History of Lacrosse | Premier Lacrosse League

The Original Purpose of the Game

Originally, lacrosse was not just a game. It was a significant cultural tradition that was often played to resolve conflicts, heal the sick, or develop strong, virile men. To many tribes, it was known as "The Creator's Game," symbolizing its importance in their culture and spirituality. Furthermore, the sticks used to play the game symbolized peace and friendship.

The Evolution of the Name

How and Why The Name Changed to 'Lacrosse'

The name 'lacrosse' was introduced by Jean de Brébeuf, a French Jesuit missionary who witnessed the game during his travels in Huron country in 1636. He called it 'la crosse' because the stick used by players resembled a bishop's crosier – a staff used in religious ceremonies – which is 'crosse' in French. This name stuck and eventually became anglicized to the term we use today: lacrosse.

Impact of the Name Change on the Game's Popularity

The change of name to 'lacrosse' played a significant role in the sport's spread and acceptance outside of indigenous cultures.

As European settlers adopted the game, they modified it to fit their conventions, and the new name made it more accessible, aiding its growth in popularity.

Today, lacrosse is played worldwide and is particularly popular in North America and the United Kingdom.

Comparison Between Original Game and Modern Lacrosse

Rules of the Original Game

The original game of lacrosse had few set rules, and the style of play varied greatly between tribes. Games could last from dawn to dusk, with teams consisting of hundreds of players. The goals could be miles apart, and there were few restrictions on player contact.

In addition, the goals of each team were often different and could include anything from moving a ball to a predetermined spot to scoring as many points as possible.

Modern lacrosse is much more structured and has a set of fixed rules.

Changes Made to the Game When it Got its New Name

As lacrosse was adopted by European settlers, the game was significantly modified to suit their preferences for organized sport. The number of players was reduced, and the pitch size was standardized.

Rules limiting player contact were introduced, and protective equipment like helmets and pads became mandatory. These changes made the game safer and more structured, facilitating its acceptance as a mainstream sport.

Modern Lacrosse is played on a rectangular field with two goals at either end; teams consist of ten players plus four substitutes; and the timeframe is much shorter, usually lasting between one and two hours.

There are also rules restricting contact between players and governing the ways in which goals can be scored.

modern lacrosse game

Current Use of the Original Name

If and Where the Original Name is Still Used Today

While the term 'lacrosse' is widely used globally, the original names for the game – 'Baggataway' and 'Tewaarathon' – are still in use within certain Indigenous communities in North America.

These communities continue to respect and uphold their cultural heritage by using these traditional names when playing the sport in its original form.

Additionally, the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team, representing the Iroquois Confederacy in international field lacrosse competition, uses "Tewaarathon" in reference to the game, maintaining the connection between the modern sport and its historical roots.


Recap of Key Points

Lacrosse, originally known as 'Baggataway' or 'Tewaarathon', is a sport with deep cultural and traditional significance among the indigenous tribes of North America.

The sport was more than just a game; it was a training exercise for warriors, a method of conflict resolution, and a spiritual practice.

The name 'lacrosse' was introduced by French Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf in 1636, and this change played a significant role in popularizing the sport outside indigenous cultures.

Final Thoughts on the Significance of the Original Name

The original names of lacrosse remind us of the rich cultural history and traditions that birthed this sport.

They serve as a testament to the sport's origins and its significance beyond being just a game. As lacrosse continues to evolve and grow in popularity worldwide, it's important to remember and honor its indigenous roots.

The original names 'Baggataway' and 'Tewaarathon' carry with them the spirit of a time-honored tradition that continues to thrive today.

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  1. What is the original name of lacrosse?
    Lacrosse was originally known as 'Baggataway' or 'Tewaarathon' by the Native American tribes who invented it.

  2. Where did the name 'lacrosse' originate from?
    The name 'lacrosse' originated from the French term for field hockey, 'le jeu de la crosse'.

  3. How has the name of lacrosse evolved over the years?
    Over the years, the game's name evolved from 'Baggataway' or 'Tewaarathon', to 'stickball', and finally to 'lacrosse', as it was adopted and adapted by European settlers.

  4. Were there different names for lacrosse in different cultures?
    Yes, different indigenous tribes had their own names for the game. For example, the Haudenosaunee name for lacrosse is 'Gajihgwa'ee'.

  5. How did lacrosse get its current name?
    The current name 'lacrosse' was coined by Jean de Brébeuf, a French Jesuit missionary in 1636, who thought the stick used in the game resembled a bishop's crosier, known as 'la crosse' in French.

  6. What does the original name of lacrosse mean?
    The original names 'Baggataway' and 'Tewaarathon' do not have direct translations, but 'Baggataway' is sometimes translated as 'little brother of war'.

  7. Why was the name of the game changed to lacrosse?
    The name was changed to 'lacrosse' by European settlers who adapted the game, as they found this new name more accessible.

  8. How did the name change impact the popularity of lacrosse?
    The name change helped to popularize the sport outside of indigenous cultures and facilitated its growth worldwide.

  9. Is the original name of lacrosse still used anywhere today?
    Yes, the original names are still used within certain Indigenous communities in North America.

  10. What changes were made to the game of lacrosse when it got its new name?
    The game was significantly modified when it got its new name, with standard pitch sizes, reduced player numbers, and rules limiting player contact introduced.

  11. How often has the name of lacrosse changed throughout history?
    The name of the game changed significantly once, from its indigenous name to 'lacrosse', when it was adopted by European settlers.

  12. What is the significance of the original name of lacrosse?
    The original names of lacrosse remind us of the rich cultural history and traditions that gave birth to this sport, and they maintain the connection between the modern sport and its historical roots.

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