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There is no single definition of juggling that everyone agrees on. Different jugglers have different ideas of what exactly juggling is and how it should be defined, and may disagree on whether a certain activity is "juggling" or not.

There are different senses of the word "juggling"; a person might use the same word to mean a wide category of activities (i.e., object manipulation), or to mean a certain type of activity within that category (i.e., toss juggling), or to mean doing that activity and making a certain number of catches (i.e., qualifying). (The terms "object manipulation", "toss juggling", and "qualifying" are also somewhat ambiguous.)

The word also has historical and metaphorical meanings that have little to do with skilled object manipulation, such as multi-tasking, fumbling, and deception.

Dictionary definitions Edit

Dictionary.com (Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary) Edit

  • Juggle: To keep (several objects, as balls, plates, tenpins, or knives) in continuous motion in the air simultaneously by tossing and catching.
  • Juggle: To perform feats of manual or bodily dexterity, as tossing up and keeping in continuous motion a number of balls, plates, knives, etc.

Merriam-Webster Edit

Juggle: To perform the tricks of a juggler.
Juggler: One skilled in keeping several objects in motion in the air at the same time by alternately tossing and catching them.

OxfordDictionaries.com Edit

Juggle: Continuously toss into the air and catch (a number of objects) so as to keep at least one in the air while handling the others.

Wiktionary Edit

  • Juggling: The art of moving objects, such as balls, clubs, beanbags, rings, etc. in an artful or artistic manner.
  • Juggle: To manipulate objects, such as balls, clubs, beanbags, rings, etc. in an artful or artistic manner. Juggling may also include assorted other circus skills such as the diabolo, devil sticks, hat, and cigar box manipulation as well.
  • Juggle: To throw and catch each prop at least twice, as opposed to a flash.

Definitions proposed by jugglers Edit

Objections:
  • Should it be considered juggling if the objects are manipulated in such a way that there is no risk of dropping, and no need to hurry to make the next throw?
  • A 1 or 2 object trick done with two hands would not be juggling by this definition, but an identical trick done using something other than the hands (such as the feet) would be considered juggling.
  • Why should 6011, a variation of the 2 in one hand juggling pattern, not be considered juggling?
  • This definition excludes many activities that some jugglers consider to be forms of juggling, such as contact juggling, plate spinning, and poi.
  • Doing that which doesn't need to be done in the most difficult way possible.
Objections:
  • This definition includes activities that no one would consider to be juggling, such as "running the London Marathon dragging a millstone by a rope around your neck".
  • This definition seems to exclude juggling that is not particularly difficult, such as a basic 3 ball cascade.
  • If you do need to juggle for some reason, it is no longer considered juggling by this definition.
  • Juggling is what jugglers do (and non-jugglers don't do).
Objections:
  • This is a useless circular definition. You can't make sense of it unless you already know what "juggling" or "juggler" means.
  • There are activities that only jugglers tend to do, but that are not actually juggling, such as making juggling videos or having discussions on juggling forums.

Erik Åberg Edit

Juggling is a genre of related activities. The word "juggling" can represent either the genre or an activity of that genre. The activities are usually skill-based demonstrations of object manipulation, but it is not these characteristics that are conclusive in whether something is juggling or not. Historically, juggling in its default form is throwing and catching using the hands in repetitive cycles, with at least one object more than the amount of hands. This pattern has become known as the cascade.
The nature of juggling is similar to the nature of a melody. Both are defined by the composition between their components, and not by the components themselves. A melody is not a single note; juggling is not a single throw. With this understanding, we can resist falling into the trap of seeing components of juggling as juggling. A tire of a car is not a car; it's a tire. The same goes for juggling. A throw is not juggling; it's a throw. A throw can be juggling if it's combined with something, or in some other way placed into the context of the default form. The most common example of this is when several objects are thrown continuously in a juggling pattern, such as a three ball cascade. Then the combination of components and the specific way they are combined make them belong into the category of juggling. A throw of one object without other objects or additional throws could be juggling if it is part of a certain context, such as a juggling performance.
The crucial aspect of the context is that it is in a relevant relation to the default form. All activities that belong in juggling are related to the default form in some way. That is their common link. Juggling is the default form, plus everything that is put into the context of the default form by, among other things, mimicking, referencing, expanding on, being influenced by, or in some other way relating, concretely or abstractly, to the default form. If that context is removed, so is the connection to juggling.

Notes:

  • It is commonly known that the ability to juggle is achieved by practice. If the juggler is using secrets, such as gimmicks or hidden apparatus, the juggling is not considered to be authentic. It may still exist within the genre of juggling, but will be pushed to the periphery, or over the edge into the genre of magic.
  • If there is another genre that has a stronger connection to the subject than juggling, the subject will be placed in that genre, and not in juggling. If a subject has a strong enough cultural identity of its own, it can be independent, and will not be referred to as juggling.

(If you want to discuss this definition, go here.)

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