Battle Royal

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Battle Royal : Phrases


General mayhem in a free for all fight.


The term was used particularly to refer to cockfighting, where large numbers of birds were sometimes engaged in 'battle royal' fights to the death. The first citations of the phrase don't relate to cockfighting explicitly. Whether it originated with cockfighting and then became a more general term for raucous fights isn't clear. The first known record in print is from James Howard's comic play All Mistaken, or the Mad Couple, 1672:

"Hist - now for a battle-royal."

The first citation that refers directly to cockfighting is General Thomas Perronet Thompson's Audi alteram partem, 1857–61:

"Cockerels crow across a ditch, till they get up a battle-royal."

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