Why Is Table Tennis Called Ping Pong?

I often wondered about this one too, this is similar to words like soccer vs football, one being a popular sport in Europe and the other is refers to American Football. But this is different since both are not the same sport, in this case, Ping Pong vs Table tennis is almost the same, when I say almost is explained later in the article.

That question also crossed my mind when researching this topic, in fact, there’s a lot of terms related to the game Table tennis, from ping pong to the obscure term gossima, wiff waff and flim flam and I kid you not about those words.

Okay not really obscure but more of a brand name trademarked. But why exactly is table tennis called ping pong or gossima?

I did some research to answer what is ping pong called before.

Why Is Table Tennis Called Ping Pong?

According to the book Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America, the term ping pong originated in 1880s unrelated to any game, it was just some meaningless term in a popular song in London.

While table tennis originated in Victorian England, it is usually played by the upper class as an after-dinner game or more commonly called now as a parlor game, it also has been suggested that versions of this game were developed by the British Military Officers in India around 1860s or 1870s.

Gossima was also the term that was used beginning in 1891 by the game company Jacques, more on this later.

It is during 1900 that members of a London Club used celluloid ball to Gossima and found it very effective, they have tried cork balls and rubber balls too but met unsatisfactorily.

They began using long-handled racquets with sheepskin surfaces, upon hitting the surface the sound of the ball produces a song like Ping and Pong, depending on how tight the sheepskin was.

Within months Jaques Gaming Company renamed it to “Gossima or Ping Pong” and soon just Ping Pong. The game with a quirky name became an absolute hit in the 1901-02 in the UK and then in other parts of the world.

What do the Chinese call Ping Pong?

This does sound very Chinese, but the Chineses don’t have a character for Pong, so they improvised and call it Ping Pang or to be precise Ping Pang Qui which means Ping Pong with Ball.

Why is table tennis called Wiff Waff?

Another earlier description of the game also spelled as whiff whaff, where exactly did the expression come from? According to my research, the earlier paddles were often pieces of parchment stretched over a frame.

And when players hit the ball over these stretched parchments what do you think they hear? A Wiff-Waff Sound as the ball is being hit back and forth.

Flim Flam

This is another term that was used before table tennis, the words can be assumed derived from the sound ball ball made when hitting back and forth on the table.


Another popular term being used pre table tennis term is Gossima, it is a trademark registered by Jacques on July 16, 1891.

Though using different names like whiff-whaff, flim-flam, punch ball, pim pam and of course Ping Pong.

Though I’ve researched it using the United States Patent and Trademark Office and WIPO global database yields no result, there should be at least some sort of information if the trademark is active or expired.

Or it could be that I’m searching it wrong, it could be! I’m no expert in a trademark search.

It might also suggest that people we’re trying to create the best indoor version of Tennis, and at that time there were already various versions of the game being sold in the market.

As a side note, gossima was played using hard rubber balls.

The Table Tennis Term

After ping pong become popular, owners of the trademark “Ping Pong” threaten to suit anyone that uses the term without using their equipment.

That’s crazy!

So that’s when the name “table tennis” was chosen to get around. ¬†They can still use their equipment but calling it under a new name.

A lot has been covered in this article, defining Table Tennis and Ping Pong, where it originated.

I had fun researching this topic and I hope you have fun reading the article in its entirety.

At first I did not know that there was so much history with the game, and not it so popular that there is a governing body for it as well as major competition around the world.

Not to mention it is an olympic sport, it was introduced in the 1988 summer olympics in  Seoul, South Korea.

Also there is the 2019 World Table Tennis Championships which already concluded in Budapest, Hungary. This past April 21-28, 2019.

It was the 55th edition of the championships, and the fourth time that they were held in Budapest

So Long story short both Ping Pong and Table Tennis are just two names for the (not exactly) the same game.

See, the term Ping Pong is trademarked while table tennis is not, and style of play differs from one game over another.

The Growth of The Sport

For formality Table Tennis has been used to refer to the SPORT and Ping Pong is just a game we use to play in college or in your Mom’s basement.

Hence you can’t trademark a sport, you can create a governing body.

If your looking to add (if not playing already) Table Tennis as one of your recreational activity, then you’re in luck especially if you’re located in the US as there are a number of major Table Tennis Clubs nationwide.

Also check your local park there might be people in there playing recreationally, you can practice your skills before joining clubs.

Ask questions, view videos over at youtube, read techniques, you can get better with practice and time, don’t worry if you can’t grasp it everyone starts out as a rookie.

And remember 1978 there was just an ordinary kid who was cut from his high school basketball team, turns out that kid was Michael Jordan.

I know MJ, it has nothing to do with table tennis but if you see where I’m going here, my point is if you want to be better, practice and make time for it, you will only get better from here.

Just like any other thing you do in life, it takes time and some things take time, you’ll see soon enough that you will get better and you skills will drastically improve.

You will get better in time, trust me.

Also have fun and make friends it is the most rewarding part of the experience.

Further Reading

If you want to indulge in a little light reading to get familiarize with the sports long history I’ve added some links below for you to check some book about the subject.

History of table tennis volume 23 and Ping Pong Diplomacy