8 Words Traded on Wall Street and in Sports

These words are played by both investors and athletes.

The verb rally is from French ralier, a combination of the prefix re- and alier, meaning "to unite." Dating to the late 1500s, in senses implying coming or bringing together or reassembling, it is older than the noun rally. In time, the verb came to be used to describe various forms of recovery, particularly physical and emotional ones.

She is weak from being cupped and from medical treatment, but she will rally immediately.
— W. M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1847

The noun is first used in the 1600s as a word for the reuniting of forces, and it developed senses corresponding to the verb's thereafter. The financial rally debuts in the early 1800s and the sports in the latter half of the century. Their related verbs start being used around the same time.

While the market rallied on Thursday in anticipation of the historic stimulus bill that is expected to pass Congress, the coming recession could just as quickly send stocks spiraling again. 
— Gabrielle Canon, USA Today, 26 Mar. 2020

In January, Arizona rallied back from a 44-24 deficit to stun Kansas 91-74 at Allen Fieldhouse.
— Justin Spears, The Arizona Daily Star, 29 Mar. 2020

As the examples illustrate, in finance, rally means "to rebound in price" (as a noun, "a recovery of price after a decline"). The prices on the rise again are those of securities and commodities. In sports, rally is used in reference to comebacks by a team or player who takes the lead after or recovers from a significant deficit during a contest especially by a renewed, sustained, or sudden offensive. 

Another sports-related sense of rally is associated with play on the tennis court. Rally is the name for the act of practicing or warming up by exchanging shots with an opponent as well as for a series of shots interchanged between players before a point is won. The latter sense is served in the late 1800s. Earlier in that century, rally was used for an exchange of blows in boxing and that use may have influenced the tennis sense. 

The Cyclone raged almost unchecked about the ring. In one lightning rally in the third he brought his right across squarely on to the Kid's jaw.
— P. G. Wodehouse, The Prince and Betty, 1912


Option became an option in the English language in the 16th century, when it was borrowed from French. The word is a descendant of Latin optio, meaning "free choice." In keeping with its ancestry, senses of the word include "the power or right to choose" and "something that can be chosen." In financial investing, option can mean "a privilege of demanding fulfillment of a contract on any day within a specified time" or "a contract conveying a right to buy or sell designated securities, commodities, or property interest at a specified price during a stipulated period."

And in a low interest rate environment, combined with the fact that most options traded are short term—expiring in one month or less—interest rates often have less overall impact than other risks, at least on a day-to-day basis. But that doesn't mean interest rates should be ignored. It's still important to understand how interest rates affect options prices, if only because they can affect the decision to exercise an option before its expiration date. 
— Peter Klink, The Ticker Tape, 2 Apr. 2020

Two common types of options are the call option and the put option. More on those coming up—but first the sports option.

In sports, an option clause is a clause in a player's contract which gives to the team the option of retaining the player one additional season at a percentage of their salary after their contract expires. Essentially, the team gets an additional year to negotiate a new contract with the player, if they so desire. Without a new contract, the player is a free agent.

Ahead of the start of the NFL's 2019 league year in early March, the Patriots exercised a $400,000 option clause in Slater's contract that triggered the second year of the deal and essentially guarantees that the veteran will be on New England's roster in 2019. 
— Bernd Buchmasser, Patspulpit.com, 11 June 2019

Miami recently re-signed wide receiver DeVante Parker after exercising his fifth-year option last year, which would have made this season his last on his rookie contract.
— Kevin Nogle, Thephinsider.com, 18 Apr. 2019

Option is also used in American football, where the option is an offensive play in which the ball carrier has the choice of running with the ball or passing it.


In investment trading, a call (or a call option) is an option to buy a specified amount of a security (such as stock) or commodity (such as wheat) at a fixed price at or within a specified time. The purchase is made in anticipation of an increase in price.

Phil's Stock World (a stock and options trading site founded by Philip R. Davis) provides us with a helpful scenario to understand how calls are used in the market:

A call is a contract you buy (or sell) that gives the right to purchase a stock at a certain price between now and the expiration date for that contract. In the case below, we paid $4.20 for the right to buy IMAX stock for $17 between now and Jan 17th, 2020—the expiration day for that contract. Our bet then, is that IMAX will be higher than $21.20 (our net cost) on that date. However, we mitigated that cost by selling an equal number (10) of call contracts where someone paid us $1.78 for the right to buy IMAX stock for $21 between now and Jan 17th, 2020. That lowers our net basis on the spread to $2.42 and now we're netting into IMAX for $19.42 but we've capped our gains at $21.

In the world of sports, call can be played many ways. Generally, it refers to a decision or ruling made by an official, as when "calling" a foul or infraction. In American football, it features as a noun meaning "the selection of a play" (the quarterback's call in the huddle) or "an assignment to carry the ball on a running play" (the fullback got the call); as a verb it means "to call out the offensive or defensive signals at the beginning of a down" (the quarterback was late calling the play) or "to direct a team's offense during a game by choosing plays" (the coach called the game from the sidelines). 

In baseball, when a catcher is said to have "called" a good game, the catcher was accurate in indicating to the pitcher what pitches to throw to a batter to put them out. Another baseball use is the umpire's "calling" of balls and strikes. The umpire can also "call" a game—that is, stop play because of unsuitable conditions, such as rain or darkness.

And then there's call meaning "to announce the play-by-play of a sports event."


A put (option) is the opposite of a call (option). It is an option to sell (as opposed to "buy") a specified amount of a security or commodity at a fixed price at or within a specified time. The sale is made in anticipation of a decline in price.

You'd buy a put option if you expect the price of an underlying security to fall. When you buy put options, you're betting that, at the time your contract expires, the price of an underlying stock will go down. This gives you the opportunity to sell shares of that security at a price higher than the market value, which earns you a profit.
— Caitlin McCormack, The Benzinga Reader, 13 Mar. 2020

Put can also mean "to invest," as in "He puts money in/into stocks." 

In the track-and-field event of shot put, a metal sphere (the shot) is held in the palm at shoulder level and heaved for distance with a quick pushing motion away from the shoulder. This act or instance of heaving is referred to as "putting the shot" or "the put"

In baseball, put out means "to cause an opposing player to be out," and putout, the noun, is used for the retiring (or putting out) of a base runner or batter. In sports like tennis and volleyball, put away (a synonym of kill) is used for the hitting of a shot so hard that a return is impossible.

Williams backhands, then aces, and then double faults before putting away a forehand winner.
— Jonathan Howcroft, The Guardian (London), 20 Jan. 2020


We'll just float this by you. A company's float is the volume of its shares that are available for public trading.

The term "shares outstanding" refers to all shares of stock that a company has issued. Very often, some are "restricted"—for example, if they're held by insiders (such as founders, executives and/or employees) who cannot sell until the shares vest. Those folks typically hold on to their shares for a long time. The remaining shares are available for trading, are owned by the public and change hands more often. They're the float.
The Spokesman-Review, 3 Nov. 2019

A floater is a debt security (as a bond serving as evidence of indebtedness) that yields an indexed variable rate of interest.

Nearly half the variable debt … is in floating rate notes, in which interest rates are based on a set spread to a Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association or London Interbank Offered Rate floating index. The MTA is carrying $2.4 billion in floaters, while daily and weekly variable rate demand bonds combine for nearly $2 billion. 
— Paul Burton, The Bond Buyer, 28 Apr. 2015

If a hit or thrown ball is described as "floating" or "being floated," the ball is moving or has been caused to move through the air relatively slowly in a high arc. Such a ball is called a "floater." Hockey pucks can also be made to "float" and so, too, can be called "floaters."

You can also "float" securities or stocks, meaning placing them on the market. 

Worse still, companies are often floated on the market at the peak of their fortunes, as their owners try to cash out, with the result that they underperform. Jay Ritter at the University of Florida has shown that, for years, newly floated stocks do badly in the first three years after they are listed.
— Chris Dillow, Investors Chronicle, 5 Apr. 2019


An investor who purchases or operates on the "short side" of the market is sometimes referred to as a "short."

If a "short" sells stock he does not own, and a sudden rally in that stock carries the stock up so high that he has not money enough to make good his sales, then he is ruined and becomes a bankrupt.
— H. Irving Hancock, The Motor Boat Club Off Long Island, 1909

The short sells securities or commodities that they do not possess or have not contracted for at the time of the sale. To the uninitiated in trading, this probably doesn't make much sense. How can you sell something for profit that you do not own? Let us explain. 

The purpose of short selling is to make a profit from an anticipated drop in the price of a security or commodity. Typically, a short borrows a quantity of stocks from a broker. They first sell them at the current market price, retaining the proceeds. When the price of the stocks drops, the seller buys an equal quantity at the lower price, then returns the borrowed stocks (bought on the cheap), and keeps the difference from selling high and buying low. Here's an elementary example to clarify: The short sells 100 borrowed shares at $10 a piece (gaining $1000) and, when the price drops, buys them back at $90 per share (spending $900); he returns the lower-valued shares and profits $100.

In baseball, short is short for shortstop ("Merriam at short threw to Webster at first for an out"). It is also used to indicate a fielding position or area that is closer to home plate—for example, "The third baseman was playing short expecting a bunt"; "He hit a fly ball to short [=shallow] right field." There is also a golfer's short game, the phase of golf in which control of relatively short shots, such as approach shots and putts, is important.


If an investor has a "long position," it means that they own or have accumulated securities, goods, or commodities in anticipation of a rise in prices. Such a person is sometimes referred to as a long

The "longs" are the opposites of the "shorts" in the sense that they have bought futures, and therefore will if they passively await the passage of time receive the prescribed grain. They are "long" in the sense that they own contracts on which they can demand delivery not canceled by contracts given to any one else on which delivery may be demanded. The longs have bought in the belief that prices are going to rise.
— Benjamin Horace Hibbard, Marketing Agricultural Products, 1921

In connection with the foregoing terms are "long" and "short." A long is a person who has a surplus of grain and is waiting for a higher market; a short has sold some grain he does not possess, with the hope that the market will go lower and enable him to purchase enough to cover the shortage and realize a profit.
— Thomas J. Delohery, The Country Gentleman, 9 Dec. 1916

In sports, long describes a hit, throw, shot, or pass that goes a considerable distance or goes beyond the area of play. In baseball, long ball is the nickname for a home run; in soccer, it refers to a long pass. A popular track-and-field sport is the long jump, a field event in which the contestant leaps for distance from a running start. 

There is also long count, an application of the adjective's meaning of "longer than the standard." A long count in baseball is one in which there are three balls and one or two strikes on the batter. 

The at-bat seemed to take forever. Foul balls, a long count. The tension was rising. I crossed my fingers and swallowed hard.
— Bill Clark, The Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune, 7 June 2010

In boxing, it is a count given by a referee over a knocked down boxer that seems excessively slow or to last more than the standard 10 seconds. Golfers will know long game as the term for the phase of golf in which placement of long shots, such as drives, is important.


Slump fell into late 17th-century English as a verb meaning "to fall or sink suddenly"; it is believed to be of onomatopoeic origin. Two centuries or so later, slump begins being used as a word for a marked or sustained decline especially in economic activity or prices. Also in the late 19th century, slump is applied as a name for the extended period of time during which an individual or team has been playing poorly or losing.

With McMahon, Gleason and Mercer, and barring accidents and another batting slump, it would be a good even bet that the Birds would win the pennant in a walk.
The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 14 Aug. 1894