Why ‘K’ Means Strikeout in Baseball? – A Detailed Explanation

A. Coatess

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A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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why K means strikeout in baseball

Many people have grown accustomed to the idea that symbols are forever a part of baseball. It is also common knowledge that popular terms do not become entrenched in people’s minds overnight. They need history to take shape.

Read on to find out why ‘K’ means strikeout in baseball.

Why Do We Use K for Strikeout?


Why is K the symbol for a strikeout? There is no one answer to this question.

The factors and reasons vary, depending on the sources. But one thing remains true: these factors came about from years of development in the cultural sphere of the game.

Varied as the events are, they mostly revolve around a famous person called Henry Chadwick.

Here are events in baseball history that explain why K stand for strikeout:

  • The three strokes: A particular theory with unclear origin says that because K is written with three lines, it is perfect for representing three strikes or one strikeout.
  • The development of the box score: During the first twenty years of baseball, the game ran on without accurate scoring or statistical readings.

As an early sportswriter, statistician, and scorer, Chadwick saw the importance of a box score to walk audiences through the game. Chadwick’s idea to invent a box score came out as an essential move.

There were no broadcasting devices or systems (radio, television, etc) in the 1860s. People who were not present at the live game had no way to get an update on the event.

For the invention of the score box, Chadwick developed a scoring system. During this process, he utilized abbreviations, codes, and symbols.

  • The sound K produces: Henry Chadwick realized that the scoring book already used the letter ‘S.’ ‘S’ should have stood for the strikeout, given the first letter of the word itself.

But since it has already represented a sacrifice, Chadwick improvised and decided to use K instead, which is the sound at the end of the word “struck.” Strucks referred to strikeouts at the time.

  • The use of letters instead of numbers: Baseball statistics, even in its earliest moments in history, had a tradition of writing letters in the scorebook instead of numbers.

Before K was used, other stats like singles, triples, and runs already used letters.

What Is a Strikeout in Baseball?

A strikeout happens when a batter receives three strikes during at-bat. This event also causes the batter to be out.

What Do Backward and Forward K Mean in Baseball?


The backward K in baseball signifies that a call for the third strike has been made, in which the batter fails to swing.

On the other hand, the forward K or strikeout meaning is that the batter was able to get three strikes.

In other words, the difference between the backwards K vs forward K in baseball is the hitter not swinging vs swinging.

What Are Some Slangs Related to Strikeout?

Here are some slangs used in place of strikeout K signs:

  • Fanned: When a batter fails to hit the ball for the third swing, he is known to have fanned the ball.
  • Whiff: When a batter swings but does not hit the ball, he is said to have whiffed.
  • Hat Trick: The hat trick is an achievement of one player striking out thrice within one game.
  • Horn: Getting six strikeouts is very challenging, to the point where it almost never happens.

When a player can get six strikeouts, he is said to have accomplished a horn. Experts attribute the word to Sam Horn, one of the few players who achieved such a feat.

  • Blown Away: The feeling or event of being blown away involves a batter being struck out by an overwhelming full-speed pitch (fastball).
  • Immaculate inning: Immaculate inning happens when a pitcher can strike out three batters in one inning without completing more than nine successive pitches.
  • Punched out: When a batter does the opposite of fanning so that he can receive a called final strike, he is known to have punched out.
  • Caught Looking: The phrase “caught looking” indicates that the batter failed to swing and just looked at the strike.


The reason why ‘K’ means strikeout in baseball is that it gives a similar sound to the last letter of the word struck.

The symbol K comes in two primary forms in baseball – forward and backward. Either way, both (and even most slang related to them) are widely used today.

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