Origins #1: Tit for Tat

Origins Category

Every once in a while I’m going to remark on the origin of a word, phrase, or expression. Hope you enjoy.

Today’s phrase is tit for tat.

First, let’s define it:

An equivalent given in return (as for an injury) : retaliation in kind Merriam-Webster

A phrase used when someone pays back one wrong or injury with another Yourdictionary.com

As to the origin of the phrase, it goes back to 1556. The original phrase was actually ‘tip for tap’, an even older expression that evolved into tit for tat in the mid-16th century. In those days ‘tip’ meant a hit, or shove. ‘Tap’ was the retaliatory hit. You hit me, I hit you, tit for tat.

In case you’re interested, tit for tat turns out to be a great strategy in game theory. If you’re so inclined, you may read about game theory, and how tit for tat plays a huge role, here.

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