GOAL, originally an object set up as the place where a race ends, the winning-post, and so used figuratively of the end to which any effort is directed. It is thus used to translate the Lat. meta, the boundary pillar, set one at each end of the circus to mark the turning-point. The word was quite early used in various games for the two posts, with or without a cross-bar, through or over which the ball has to be driven to score a point towards winning the game. The New English Dictionary quotes the use in Richard Stanyhurst's Description of Ireland (1577) but the word gol in the sense of a boundary appears as early as the beginning of the 14th century in the religious poems of William de Shoreham (c. 1315). The origin of the word is obscure. It is usually taken to be derived from a French word gaule, meaning a pole or stick, but this meaning does not appear in the English usage, nor does the usual English meaning appear in the French. There is an 0. Eng. gaelan, to hinder, which may point to a lost gal, barrier, but there is no evidence in other Teutonic languages for such a word.
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