What is a rookie? Where does the word come from?
A rookie is someone recently promoted to a higher level of competition, particularly in sports. It is the term used in north America to describe a football or other team player in their first season - a rookie NFL quarterback, example.
The term is now often used in general (American) English to describe inexperience -
a rookie political mistake.
According to the OED
the origins are uncertain, but that perhaps it is a corruption of the word recruit. The earliest example from the OED is from Rudyard Kipling's Barrack-Room Ballads (published 1892): So 'ark an' 'eed, you rookies, which is always grumblin' sore, referring to rookies in the sense of raw recruits to the British Army.
There is also a hint of a secondary sense: to rook someone is to fool them. This suggests that rookie may have been used to describe someone "easy to cheat."
Using a rookie - however talented - is considered a risk in high-pressure sporting occasions. This risk can pay dividends, however, see the 17-year-old Pele in the 1958 World Cup.
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