Definition: A baseball word referring to the action of the batter throwing the baseball into the air him/herself and hitting it with the bat when it descends. Although this does not happen in the game, it can happen during practice or during a children’s game, for example.
Pronunciation: Say it like you see it. Fun-go
An Americanism. It first appears around the mid-1860s. Although the origin is somewhat obscure, it is thought to derive from the German verb ‘Fangen’ – meaning to ‘catch’ – which itself entered the dialect of the descendants of German immigrants into America as ‘fonge’.
Why This Word?
Immigration has long been the great driver of American English. Fungo is a good example of the power and playfulness that happens when languages collide. It is also something that almost every American has tried at some stage – to throw up a ball and hit it with the bat. Yet I would imagine that most Americans are unfamiliar with the word.
Incidentally – a ‘Fungo Bat’ at one stage referred to a thin bat – or an unofficial, street bat/stick – used for fungos.
How to use the word fungo in a sentence?
Reserve this one for when you’re actually doing it. That summer cook-out when the kids are playing baseball? Grab the bat and ball from them and tell them to “Watch while I fungo this ball.” Kids are generally impressed when middle-aged adults interrupt their games and use out-dated slang.