love in tennis

what does "love" means in tennis? - Meaning, use cases and word's origin

Tennis terminology is challenging for beginners. 

We know it. We’ve all started somewhere, after all.

But, it is a must for aspiring tennis players to know how scoring works and the terms associated with the sport.

While you are here, you might also want to check the meanings of deuce and ace in tennis.

So, let’s get to it?

On this Article

What does "Love" means in tennis

“Love” in tennis means zero or no points. 

It is usually used when mentioning the points within a single game – 15-love or love-30, for example.

You can also use the word love to describe the points in a set – 2-love or 4-love – although it is uncommon to use it in this way.

When to use the word "love" - Scoring examples

While the definition of the word “love” in tennis is relatively simple, its use cases can be tricky.

Use of the word “love” within a point

The first thing to know is that, whenever referring to the score of a tennis match, the server’s points come first.

So, let’s say the serves wins the first ball of the point

  • the score will be 15-love.
  • The server wins the following point – 30 -love
  • Next one – 40-love

 

On the contrary:

  • if the server loses the first point – love-15
  • If the server loses the following point – love-30
  • Next one – love-40

Use of the word “love” within a set

It is also acceptable, although uncommon, to use the word “love” to refer to the score within a set – 3-love or love-1, for example.

Use of the word “love” to describe the overall match score

We do not use “love” in tennis to discuss the overall match score.

If a player wins the first set, the match is 1-0, not 1-love.

Love-All or Love-Love

Love-all, or love-love, refers to when the score is tied at zero. 

For example, when the match is starting or at the beginning of a new set.

However, the term “love” is not used in this way. 

When a new set starts, the serving player shouts the overall match score (1-love in sets, for example).

Since you haven’t played any point in the set about to begin, it does not make sense to use the term love-love or love-all.

The only time that would be acceptable to use this term would be at the beginning of the match – but then, again, that does not make much sense either.

So, refrain from using the term love-love or love-all.

Is the word “love” also used in tiebreaks?

Yes!

Although the tiebreak scoring is different from regular tennis scoring – they follow a linear progression (1,2,3) rather than the typical 15, 30, 40 – “love” is also used to describe when a player has not attained any point in the tiebreak.

If the serving player wins the first point of the tiebreak, the score will be 1-love.

On the other hand, if the serving player loses the first point of the tiebreak, the score will be love-1.

The same logic applies to the remaining points of the tiebreak.

Where does the term “love” come from - Word etymology

It is not known for a fact where the word “love” comes from in tennis.

The sport of tennis was invented in England in the late 19th Century, and the word “love” has been used since its origin.

There are 3 main theories for the etymology of the word “love” in tennis.

The first one is the most widely accepted in the tennis community.

Theory 1 - Love as “love for the game.”

The first theory for the word’s “love” etymology derives from the English word “love”, as in love for the game of tennis.

The idea is that when a player is losing and has not scored any points, he is simply playing for his love for the sport.

Since tennis originated in England, it makes sense.

The logic of the origin of this word is similar to the root of the word “amateur”, which derives from the Latin word “amare”, which means to love – playing for love to the game rather than fame or glory.

Theory 2 - the French word for egg - l’oeuf

Another theory is that the word “love” in tennis derives from the french word for egg – l’oeuf.

The logic is that the pronunciation is similar, and an egg is shaped similarly to a zero.

A little far-fetched, we think.

Theory 3 - dutch word for pride/honor - Lof

The last theory is based on the dutch word “lof”, which roughly translates to honor or pride.

Meaning that when you are losing and have not scored any point, your honor and pride are at stake, and you’re playing to salvage your reputation.

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