This word is a contraction of ‘hand in cap’, which then became ‘hand i’cap’ before evolving into the current word handicap by the mid-17th century. ‘Hand in cap’ was the name of a gambling game that was popular in the 1600s. The game required three people, two players and a referee. All three would place an agreed, equal amount of forfeit money into a cap. Each of the two players would then put up an item he thought the other player might want. The referee would inspect the two items and if they were of equal monetary value, all well and good. If not, the owner of the lesser valued item had to put up extra money to make the proposed swap fair and square. Once this was all agreed, the game could begin. One after the other, the two players would reach into the cap containing the forfeit money and would either take out a coin or not, keeping their fists closed. The referee would then ask them to open their hands. If both players had drawn coins, the exchange of items would go ahead at the agreed value and the referee would pocket the money in the cap, including the coins extracted by the players, as his fee. If one player drew a coin and the other did not, the exchange of items would not go ahead, but the player who drew the coin would be entitled to the money in the cap. If neither player drew coins, the exchange of items would not take place and again the referee would be entitled to the money in the cap. Only three outcomes were possible and both players and referee could win the forfeit money, after which it had to be replaced if no exchange of items took place. Onlookers could also place side bets on the three outcomes. Horses were often put up as items of exchange and allowances for differences in value had to be made in the game, which evolved from ‘hand in cap’ to ‘hand i’cap’. By the late 18th century, handicap had become all about horses and horseracing, where faster horses were given weights or handicaps in order to make races more competitive. By the early 20th century, the word had gained its modern meaning of any impediment to performance, including being physically handicapped.