A rookie is someone who is new to a game or occupation.

It is perhaps best known in sporting circles and the military.

But what is a rookie? Rookie is thought simply to be a corruption of the word ‘recruit’. A more interesting theory is found in reference to the European bird, the rook. Rooks are large, loud black birds known for their intelligence, but not very popular with farmers or anyone else.

In the 16th century, rook came to be used as a disparaging term for a loud unpleasant person and extended its meaning to a person of low repute. By 1577, the verb ‘to rook’ appeared, meaning to rob, cheat or swindle.

As is so often the case the meaning didn’t stop there and the verb gave rise to the noun rook, meaning a person who was easily swindled; a simpleton or fool.

All of which brings us back to rookie.

It makes sense that the term rookie, coming from rook, referred to inexperienced newcomers in a given profession, military outfit or sporting squad because they were the ones most likely to fall for the tricks played on them by the more senior officers or team mates.