1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Punt

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PUNT (from Lat. ponto, pontoon; connected with pons, bridge), a flat-bottomed boat, used for shallow waters, and propelled by a pole, by paddles, or occasionally by sails. Formerly the word was applied to many such flat boats used for ferries, barges, lighters, &c., but it is now generally confined to a light flat boat very long in proportion to its width, with square ends, both at stem and bow, slightly narrowing from the centre, and propelled by pushing against the bottom of the river or other water by a long pole. Such boats are much used for sport or pleasure on rivers with shallow and hard gravelly beds; a small punt with a mounted duck gun and propelled by paddles or short oars is used for wild-fowling. A professional punting championship of England was instituted in 1876, and an amateur championship in 1886. Etymologically considered, “punt” certainly was adapted from ponto, a word used by Caesar (Bell. civ. p. iii. 22) of a light vessel for transport in Gaul. Later (as by Gallius and Ausonius) it was also applied to a floating-raft used as a bridge, a pontoon, and so connected with pons, bridge.

There are two other words which must be distinguished from the above. One means, in Rugby football, to catch the ball in the hands, drop and kick it before it reaches the ground, as distinguished from a “drop-kick,” where the kick is given half-volley, as it reaches the ground. This word is probably cognate with “bunt,” a dialect word meaning to push, and both represent nasalized forms of the onomatopoeic “put” or “but.” The second, in the substantive “punter,” used in the general sense of a gambler or better, originally referred to one who at card games such as basset, baccarat, &c., stakes against the bank. Both “punt” and “punter” are to be referred to Fr. ponter, and ponte, which is usually taken as an adaptation of Span. punto, a point.