The phrase grand slam is very embedded in our recreational culture: in baseball, it refers to a home run when all bases are loaded; in bridge, it's used when someone wins all thirteen tricks; and in tennis, golf, and rugby, it's when someone wins all the major championships of that sport within a year. All of these achievements get their name from a trick-taking card game called Boston, which was basically the precursor to bridge. Then the term seeped into popular culture with the meaning "great success" and got applied to sports. In Boston, the word slam is thought to be completely unrelated to the verb meaning "forceful sound". Rather, it probably comes from slampant, a term in an older, seventeenth-century card game which ultimately was an obscure word meaning "trickery".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.