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The origin and definition of the word ‘rally’

Posted in Interesting Words, Language on Wednesday, 30 January 2013

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This edited article about language originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 113 published on 14 March 1964.

Roman legionary, picture, image, illustration

A Roman Legionary depicted as a standard-bearer by Graham Coton

Armies of old had a standard-bearer to serve as a rallying-point for the soldiers scattered in battle. The general meaning of the word rally is to reassemble, gather together, especially for combined effort. It is really a shortened form of re-ally, from the French rallier, or, tracing it even farther back, from the Latin re-, again, ad, to, and ligare, to bind.

Friends rally round us when we are in trouble. An invalid rallies when he recovers to some extent lost health or strength. Shares on the Stock Exchange rally in price when they regain a higher value after falling.

As a noun, a rally is a mass meeting for a common purpose, and can range from an assembly of cars or caravans to a big political gathering. Those taking part may have a rallying-cry, that is, a slogan which sums up what the group stands for.

In games such as tennis, a rally is a continued rapid exchange of strokes between opposing players. Possibly the connection here is the concentration of effort.

There is also a less common word rally meaning to banter or tease. This comes from the French railler, to rail at in the sense of reproaching or mocking.

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