Pieter Brueghel's "Children's Games" (1560)
A teetotum is a form of gambling top. It has a polygonal body marked with letters or numbers, which indicate the result of each spin. In its earliest form the body was square (in some cases via a stick through a regular six-sided die [ [http://wordsmith.org/words/teetotum.html Teetotum at A.Word.A.Day] ] ), marked on the four sides by the letters A (Lat. "aufer", take) indicating that the player takes one from the pool, D (Lat. "depone", put down) when a fine has to be paid, N (Lat. "nihil", nothing), and T (Lat. "totum", all), when the whole pool is to be taken.

Joseph Strutt, who was born in 1749, mentions the teetotum as used in games when he was a boy [ [http://ccl.princeton.edu/index.php?app=download&id=98 Make it a Pleasure and Not a Task] ] .

Other accounts give such letters as P, N, D ("dimidium", half), and H or T or other combinations of letters.

Other combinations of letters that could be found were:

NG, SZ, TA, TG, NH, ND, M.

Which stood for (In Latin):

ZS - "Zona Salve", save all

TA - "Tibi Adfer", take all

NH - "Nihil Habeas", nothing left

LS - "L" (i.e., 50) "Solve", save 50

ND - "Nihil Dabis", nothing happens

Teetodum survives today as dreidel, a Jewish game played on Hanukkah.



* Teetotum is mentioned in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, chapter 5: "'Are you a child or a teetotum?' the Sheep said, as she took up another pair of needles."


ee also

*Put and Take

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Teetotum — Tee*to tum, n. [For T totum. It was used for playing games of chance, and was four sided, one side having the letter T on it, standing for Latin totum all, meaning, take all that is staked, whence the name. The other three sides each had a letter …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • teetotum — [tē tōt′əm] n. [earlier T totum < the T (for totum) marked on one side + totum, the name of the toy < L totum, neut. of totus (see TOTAL): the four sides were orig. marked T ( totum, all) A ( aufer, take), D ( depone, put), N ( nihil,… …   English World dictionary

  • teetotum — /tee toh teuhm/, n. 1. any small top spun with the fingers. 2. a kind of die having four sides, each marked with a different initial letter, spun with the fingers in an old game of chance. [1710 20; earlier T totum, alter. of totum name of toy (… …   Universalium

  • teetotum — noun Etymology: 1tee + Latin totum all, from neuter of totus whole; from the letter T inscribed on one side as an abbreviation of totum (take) all Date: 1720 a small top usually inscribed with letters and used in put and take …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • teetotum — noun A toy (top) similar to a dreidel …   Wiktionary

  • teetotum — [ti: təʊtəm] noun a small spinning top spun with the fingers, especially one with four sides lettered to determine whether the spinner has won or lost. Origin C18 (as T totum): from T (representing totum, inscribed on one side of the toy) + L.… …   English new terms dictionary

  • teetotum — tee·to·tum …   English syllables

  • teetotum — tee•to•tum [[t]tiˈtoʊ təm[/t]] n. gam a small top spun with the fingers, esp. one with four sides inscribed with letters • Etymology: 1710–20; earlier T totum, alter. of totum name of toy (< L tōtum, neut. of tōtus all) by prefixing its… …   From formal English to slang

  • teetotum — /tiˈtoʊtəm/ (say tee tohtuhm) noun 1. Obsolete a small four sided disc or die with an initial letter on each of its sides, designed to be spun on a spindle, the letter which is uppermost on the fallen die determining the winner. 2. any small top… …   Australian English dictionary

  • teetotum — n. 1 a spinning top with four sides lettered to determine whether the spinner has won or lost. 2 any top spun with the fingers. Etymology: T (the letter on one side) + L totum the whole (stakes), for which T stood …   Useful english dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”