Bunting and Bunting

By Maeve Maddox

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Brad K wants to know what connection there may be between bunting.

that half-coil of red, white, and blue handrail decoration


the baseball tactic we call a “bunt.”

The short answer is “none.”

Bunting as a term for the red, white, and blue decorative material comes from flag use. In the 18th century bunting referred to a kind of cloth that was used to make flags. By extension, it came to mean a flag or flags in general.

In the United States, France, and any other country whose flags contain those colors, bunting is red, white, and blue. The Italian equivalent of bunting would be green, white, and red.

Before it became a baseball term, bunt was a verb meaning “to strike with the head or horns” (1825). The term entered the baseball lexicon in 1889, both as a noun and as a verb.

For those readers unacquainted with baseball, when a hitter bunts, he holds up the bat to intercept the ball, but does not swing at it. A bunted ball does not go far and often catches the opposing players off guard. If a pitcher thinks that the batter intends to bunt, he will alter his manner of pitching.

He did not want to bunt, but he wanted the Indians’ pitcher, Charles Nagy, and catcher, Sandy Alomar, to think he might be bunting and to pitch to him with that in mind.

NOTE: Bunting is also the name of a type of bird.
Bunting in the lullaby “Bye Baby Bunting” means “chubby one.” According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, “Baby bunting” was “a nursery nurse’s term of affection for a young baby.”

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7 Responses to “Bunting and Bunting”

  • Tricia

    Maeve, there’s another lovely definition of bunting, which my American Heritage Talking Dictionary says is “a snug-fitting, hooded sleeping bag of heavy material for infants.” The dictionary tentatively traces its etymology to a Scots word for “plump, short”, which goes along with the lullaby meaning you give.

    By the way, isn’t lullaby a lovely word?

  • Kathleen Nye

    Tricia, you beat me to it. That is the first thing I thought of when I saw the word “bunting.”
    I remember when my children were little and I used to buy baby buntings for them. When they had them on they did look plump.. like little puffy marshmallows.

  • Kathleen Nye

    Where is the edit button…

  • pentamom

    Yes, I remember my mom saving the bunting she used to wrap me in, and then I used it for my dolls until it wore out. Before babies got wrapped in “snowsuits,” buntings were used for cold weather. It’s very much like today’s Snuggies.

  • Rita

    his is so cute, I never heard the term bunting when referred to decoration before. There is a term in Russian “Bunt” which usually refers to hair decorations, but encompasses all flowers made out of ribbons. So, I was wondering if Bunt is originally a Russian word or one of the 70% that came from other languages mostly French.

  • Maeve

    Here’s what the Online Etymology Dictionary has to say about the origin of the fabric-related bunting:

    “flag material,” 1742, perhaps from Middle English bonting gerundive of bonten “to sift,” because cloth was used for sifting grain, via Old French from Vulgar Latin *bonitare “to make good.”

  • Rod

    Oh, how nice

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