The meaning and origin of words and phrases related to the word game
Traditionally speaking, game animals and birds belonged to species that were not domesticated but were hunted for sport and then eaten. Nowadays, however, many traditionally game species are especially farmed to be eaten and never see a hunter. The sale of game was not legal until 1831 and so in theory it was only available to the landed gentry and those who had shooting rights, although poaching obviously gave it a slightly wider use. The diet of wild game animals and birds is different to that of farmed ones and so their meat generally has a stronger 'gamey' flavour, a darker colour and less fat than that from domesticated animals. The word comes from the Old English gamen meaning amusement and which is also the origin of game in its meaning of a fun pastime.
The expression fair game was originally used to identify animals that could be hunted by anyone and the hunting of which was not restricted by legislation. However it was not long before it was being used in the manner it is today, to refer to something or someone deserving of ridicule or attack. Both usages share the meaning of a legitimate target.
Venison is the flesh of a deer when used as food. The word entered English in the 13th century from the Old French veneson, venesoun, ultimately from the Latin vēnāri meaning ‘to hunt’, pursue. When it was first used in English it was applied to the flesh of all hunted animals such as rabbits, hares, boar as well as deer. However by the 18th century its use was pretty much restricted to that of the flesh of deer.
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