American handball, known as handball in the United States, is a sport in which players use their hands to hit a small rubber ball against a wall such that their opponent cannot do the same without the ball touching the ground twice. The three versions are four-wall, three-wall and one-wall. Each version can be played either by two players (singles), three players (cutthroat) or four players (doubles), but in official tournaments, singles and doubles are the only versions played.
Games in which a ball is hit or thrown have been referenced as far back as Homer and ancient Egypt. A game similar to handball was played by Northern and Central Americans from 1500 BC, most famously by the Aztecs as the Mesoamerican ballgame. However, no references to a rebound game using a wall survive. It is thought that these ancient games more closely resembled a form of hand tennis. Further examples of similar games include the European-originated games of Basque pelota (or Jai-alai), Valencian frontó, International fronton and Welsh handball.
The first recorded game of striking a ball against a wall using a hand was in Scotland in 1427, when King James I ordered a cellar window in his palace courtyard to be blocked up, as it was interfering with his game.In Ireland, the earliest written record of a similar game is in the 1527 town statutes of Galway, which forbade the playing of ball games against the walls of the town. The first depiction of an Irish form of handball does not appear until 1785. The sport of handball in Ireland was eventually standardized as Gaelic handball. By the mid-19th century, Australians were playing a similar game, which developed into the modern sport of Australian handball.