Why Is The Game Called "Rummy"?

Where did the name "Rummy" come from? No one knows for sure, although there are a few theories:

  • "Rum" is British slang for "odd" or "peculiar" or "queer" - perhaps their first reaction on learning the particular mechanics of the new game.

  • There is a game called "Rum Poker" that bears a strong resemblance to Rummy, and indeed is believed by some to be the antecedent for the entire family of Rummy games (see Rummy History).

  • Some have suggested that the game was originally played for rum (the alcoholic drink), with the loser of a hand buying the next round.

  • An early rulebook spelled it as "Rhum" or "Rhummy", suggesting a European derivation ("rhum" is a word used in may French-speaking locales).

  • The name may be based on the words "rumbullion" or "rumbustion", meaning "a great tumult or uproar".

  • The Dutch word "roemer" (pronounced "rummer"), a drinking glass used by Dutch sailors, may be the origin of the word "rum" (the drink).

David Parlett has an amusing quote regarding the subject of the origins of the word "Rummy", and it's possible relation to the drink "rum":

The origins of Rummy would therefore appear to be lost not so much in the mists of time as in the alcoholic haze of history.

David Parlett

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