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Any of a variety games in which a small rubber ball is struck against a wall with the hand or fist. It can be played in a three- or four-walled court or against a single wall by two or four players (in singles or doubles games, respectively). The object is to make the ball rebound off the wall so that it cannot be returned by the opponent. The game runs to 21 points. Handball games were played in ancient Rome and later (as pelota) in Spain and France. Modern handball developed in Ireland, where it is still popular. It was played widely among late-19th-century Irish immigrants in New York City, whence it eventually spread around North America.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on handball, visit Britannica.com.