Learn English – “Tit for tat”—Where does this come from

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I always ask myself where this saying originates. I only know the individual words, tit and tat, but why is this a saying?

Best Answer

Tit and tat are used here to mean striking a light blow, so the phrase has exactly the same meaning as blow for blow. They were used as both nouns and verbs, as a sixteenth-century rhyme shows:

Come tit me, come tat me,
come throw a kiss at me.

(Source; An earlier variation has halter instead of kiss.)

I always thought it was a cute mispronunciation of this for that, but apparently it's actually a corruption of tip for tap (Etymonline; concise etymological dictionary), with the same—and, I should think, slightly more obvious—meaning.