Why Do They Call Table Tennis Ping Pong?

More often than not, one game has all but one name, though sometimes that’s not the case. When it comes to table tennis, you’ll find more names than you need, making you wonder, why do they call table tennis ping pong?

Table tennis and ping pong refer to the same game. In most English-speaking countries, the term ping pong is trademarked, forcing most manufacturers to use the name table tennis instead. However, there are no trademarks in the rest of the world, making the term ping pong more widespread there.

There’s more to table tennis (or ping pong) than its name. For example, why would someone trademark a common term? How did they manage to do it? First, we need to figure out if it’s called ping pong or table tennis.

Is It Called Ping Pong Or Table Tennis?

You can call this game by both names, and you also have other alternatives to choose from, like whiff whaff. Most manufacturers and federations use the name table tennis to avoid trademark infringement, but that shouldn’t worry you.

Whether ping pong or table tennis is more widespread depends on where you’re. Most English-speaking countries use the term table tennis.

However, ping pong is commonly used everywhere else. For example, in China, ping pong (or a variation of that term) is the official name of this game.

Why Don’t They Call It Ping Pong?

A handful of English-speaking companies trademarked the term ping pong more than a century ago. For that reason, most manufacturers were pushed to look for alternatives, making table tennis the widespread name for this game.

Trademark laws only apply to companies, so you shouldn’t worry about trademark infringement. Nevertheless, table tennis is the more widespread term.

It’s important to note different countries have different names for this game, at least during informal matches. However, most official games are sanctioned by federations that fall under the jurisdiction of the Olympics committee, which asks its members to use the term table tennis.

Who Coined The Name Ping Pong?

We don’t know who came up with the name ping pong, and more likely than not, that piece of history will forever remain in mystery. However, we can tell you the British people came up with that name as well as almost every other name to call this game.

Some believe the name ping pong comes from China, but that’d be impossible. Ping pong is a British term that existed for decades before this game was exported to China.

In other words, ping pong isn’t a Chinese term English-speaking countries borrowed but the other way around. Although ping pong isn’t a Chinese term, it’s the official name of this game in China.

Where Does The Name Table Tennis Come From?

The term table tennis probably came up when the game was invented. Sometime between the 1860s and the 1870s, British soldiers stationed in India created this game to have fun during their free time.

Why someone would call this game table tennis is pretty self-explanatory. It looks like tennis played on a table. If you feel like that term is too straightforward, remember you can use other names, like ping pong or whiff whaff, though table tennis is good enough!

Most believe ping pong was the widespread name for this game until the early days of the 1900s.

Which Came First, Ping Pong Or Table Tennis?

It’s difficult to figure out whether ping pong or table tennis came up first. More likely than not, table tennis is the first name that came up, but it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think ping pong was the first name of this game.

It’s important to note both table and tennis and ping pong come from the same place. Personnel in the British military came up with this game during their time in India. They also came up with those two names, plus an outdated third term, whiff whaff.

Both whiff whaff and ping pong come from the sound the ball makes when it hits the table. In contrast, the term table tennis is self-explanatory.

Is The Name Ping Pong Trademarked?

The term ping pong has been trademarked for a long time now. The first time a company registered that name was in 1901 in Great Britain. Other companies did the same not long after that, as an American company did during the 1920s.

Most find it odd that a company can trademark a common name or term. However, laws all over the world allow you to do so, as long as you can demonstrate what you want to trademark isn’t a generic term.

As you can probably guess, the name ping pong was far from common when it was first invented sometime during the late 18th century and early 19th century. For that reason, companies had no issue trademarking that name.

Who Trademarked The Name Ping Pong?

A British company called Jacques of London trademarked the name ping pong in 1901. Not long after that, an American company did the same in the 1920s. For that reason, most manufacturers avoid trademark infringement by using the term table tennis.

Why would someone trademark the term ping pong? Because doing so helps you retain the entire market share of all things ping pong related.

However, that move backfired. When these companies trademarked that term in their respective countries, most manufacturers started using another term, which quickly became widespread.

Nowadays, most English-speaking people talk about table tennis, and the name ping pong is widespread where there are no trademarks for that term.

Are Ping Pong And Table Tennis Different?

People are talking about the same game when they talk about ping pong and table tennis, so you can use both terms interchangeably. However, remember that most English-speaking countries use the name table tennis, while the rest of the world uses ping pong.

Certain organizations stay true to the table tennis name, no matter their native language. Most (if not all) table tennis federations under the jurisdiction of the Olympics committee use the name table tennis.

For example, most Chinese people call this game ping pong. Nevertheless, their national federation uses the term table tennis because they’re affiliated with the Olympics.


Ping pong and table tennis are the names of the same game. Since the term ping pong is trademarked in most English-speaking countries, manufacturers and people there use the name table tennis instead. In other places, like China, most know this game as ping pong. Most table tennis federations choose to use the term table tennis because the Olympics committee uses it.


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