Hockey fans know what a hat trick is, scoring three goals in a single game, but few know what it refers to. The trick part is easy enough, that is simply the sense of that word meaning feat or accomplishment, but why hat?
The term is originally from the sport of cricket. In the late 19th century, a bowler who took three wickets on three successive balls would be awarded a hat as a prize from his club. From John Lillywhite’s Cricketer’s Companion of 1877:
Having on one occasion taken six wickets in seven balls, thus performing the hat-trick successfully.
By the early 20th century, the term was being used more generally for any three-fold accomplishment. From the Daily Chronicle of 12 August 1909:
It is seldom that an apprentice does the “hat trick,” but the feat was accomplished by...an apprentice...His three successes were gained on Soldier..., Lady Carlton..., and Hawkweed.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2016, by David Wilton