A second chance
Repechage rose to the top of our look-ups on the morning of August 8th, positioning itself within striking distance of winning a medal for most-looked-up words, if we gave medals for such things (which we do not). The word was used in connection with the sports of judo and sculling.
The Jonquiere, Que. native lost his quarter-final to Slovenia’s Adrian Gomboc, but rebounded in the repechage to beat No. 3-ranked Tumurkhuleg Davaador by waza-ari.
—Vicki Hall, The National Post (Ontario, Can.), 7 Aug. 2016
Men’s single sculls repechage has been delayed with strong winds. It is slated to begin at 6 PM IST now (9.30 AM local or 12.30 PM GMT)
—The Indian Express (Mumbai, Ind.), 7 Aug. 2016
Repechage, which means "a trial heat (as in rowing) in which first-round losers are given another chance to qualify for the semifinals," is taken directly from the French repêchage (“second chance, reexamination for a candidate who has failed”). The French word comes from repêcher, which may be defined as “to fish out, rescue.”
The earliest record we have of the word’s use in English comes in 1890, when it was used to refer to contestants in a painting competition.
The jury for painting in the Salon has admitted for exhibition 2,330 pictures and 900 drawings. The so-called repêchage will doubtless reduce the number of this host.
—The Athanaeum, 12 Apr., 1890
Repechage began to be used with greater frequency at the end of the 19th century, and it was (and continues to be) most often found describing sporting contests, particularly rowing.
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