Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the USA. And, since time immemorial, baseball games have always been played in an open field. In the past, there were times when games were rained on. For goodwill, the organizers gave away return tickets to spectators. The return stubs had “rain check” stamped on it. This practice gave way to coining the term “rain check.” “Rain check” was used around 1884 in the US. The issuance of “rain checks” was formalized by the National Baseball League in 1890 and the word stuck. If you read the terms and conditions for some public events, they include a “rain check” policy.
The use of “Raincheck” outside of sports
The word later found its way outside the sport and into business. When a customer wanted to purchase an on-sale item that just ran out of stock, a merchant extended a “rain check” that would allow the customer to buy the item in the future at the same price when it became available again.
Over time, the word was used in social situations, when an invitation has to be turned down at the moment but could be taken up again in the future. Some say it is also used as a polite way of rejecting an invitation.
In conclusion: the meaning of raincheck
So, if you bought tickets to an event and it was cancelled, quickly check the terms and conditions for rain checks so you can get a refund. Or if you find yourself invited by someone to go somewhere and you are not interested or available, the polite answer would be, “Let’s take a rain check.”