Most of us work hard, plan, save and invest prudently, but let us admit it: we all have secret dreams of winning it big. Since few of us can look forward to inheriting a rich relative and even fewer are expert gamblers, the way that most of us plan on hitting a jackpot is through the lottery. Before we get too busy discussing the first thing we would buy, the first place we would travel to and etc. – what about the word lottery itself?
The word lottery originated in the 1560s, coming from the Dutch loterij with the meaning of “arrangement for a distribution of prizes by chance.” Ironically, our word lottery, as well as the Dutch, French, and Italian equivalents, are derivatives of the Old English hlot (lot), being of Saxon-Germanic origin: so the word went from German to English to Dutch and back to English.
If understanding the development of this word seems like a long-shot, actually winning the lottery is even more difficult. The current odds of winning the lottery in the UK range from 1 in 8,060,597 (for Thunderball) to 1 in 116,531,799 (for Euromillions)- becoming a movie star only has the odds of 1 in 1.5 million. While some may question why the average Briton spends £416 on the lottery considering such high odds, the lowest odds of winning anything in a lottery game are 1 in 9, ensuring that people keep playing and can enjoy it, even if they don’t strike it rich. As for the annual £7.2 billion in ticket sales, beyond covering costs and payouts – profits are directed to noteworthy causes. In the most recent year, 40% went to health, education, environment and charitable causes, and 20% each was directed towards sport, arts, and heritage.
The first known use of the word occurred in 1567 Lottery Chart, where the concept was originally introduced, stating: “A very rich Lottery general, without any blanks, containing a great number of good prices, as well of ready money as of plate,..the same lottery is erected by Her Majesty’s order, to the intent that such commodities as may chance to arise thereof,..may be converted towards the reparation of the havens, and strength of the realm.” Within the next half century, our word transformed into a more generalised meaning revolving around fortune, in Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra (1623) it is written that, “if beauty, wisdom, modesty, can settle the heart of Anthony: Octavia is a blessed lottery to him. “Aside from these more optimistic meanings, the idea could also take a negative connotation, as was used by George Eliot in HIS 1866 novel, Felix Holt, “Such desires make life a hideous lottery, where every day may turn up a blank.”
While every lottery ticket may not be a jackpot, a 1 in 9 gives a chance.