Quidditch is probably the best known, most popular sport never to have existed. In addition to the many matches we see in the books and their wonderful portrayal in the films, there are several Quidditch computer games, real-world Quidditch involving non-magical equipment, and even a separate book by J.K. Rowling, Quidditch through the Ages. Perhaps soon there will be a virtual-reality Quidditch game in which players mount brooms and headgear so as to be completely immersed in the sport.
The name Quidditch is a Rowling creation. In Quidditch through the Ages she gives the wizarding world’s version of the story: it was named for where it was first played, Queerditch Marsh. The witch Gertie Keddle lived next to the marsh around 1050 and noted down how the game developed.
Of course, this is not what actually happened. The alleged name in fact proves it. The word marsh back then would have been mer(i)sc (Old English was in use at the time), this coming from West Germanic origin. Queer came into English in 1508 with its first meaning of strange or odd. And ditch was “dic”, a variant of dike, back then in Old English.
Rowling has revealed that she created to word Quidditch after writing wrote five pages of “Q” words until she found one she liked. This is a fine example of the dedication and discipline authors put forth to come up with the right name or word.
It’s also worth nothing, as did one clever fan, that the name Quidditch is comprised of the letters in the names of the balls used: one quaffle, two bludgers (so two d’s), and the golden snitch. Whether or not Rowling realized this as she created the names is unknown, but the happy combination certainly makes the names sound good.
The names of the balls are also her creations, though similar or identical to real words. A quaffle may have been inspired by quaff, meaning to drink heartily, as the chasers try to force the quaffle through the rings, similar to a throat. A bludger, in Australian English, is a scrounger, and to bludge is to live off of other people’s work. It’s also close to bludgeon, which certainly fits the sport and this ball. The snitch of course inspires the idea of snatch, which is what the seeker is trying to do during game play.
The players are aptly and obviously named. The three chasers chase the quaffle around and attempt to use it to score, the two beaters keep the blugders away from their own team and use them where possible to bludgeon the other team’s players, the keeper is a goal keeper or goalie who protects the team’s rings from quaffles from the other team, and the seekers, as said above, chases after and attempts to snatch the golden snitch.
The translation of Quidditch into other languages was difficult, with some languages opting simply to keep the English version of the names of the balls and players, with modifications for spelling, and other languages creating their own terms. Wikipedia has an excellent table for the names Quidditch, golden snitch, quaffle, and bludger in over 30 languages.
Quidditch has become so popular in the public imagination that various attempts have been made using bicycles, unicycles, and other contraptions to play it on a small scale. There is a street in Lower Cambourne named Quidditch Lane that draws Harry Potter fans. Soon enough a combination of technology and ingenuity will produce a real-world version of Quidditch that would likely be popular around the world, and maybe eventually appear in the Olympics. Given the configuration of the rings in Quidditch, the game would fit right in.