A slot is a hollow space in a structure, usually a wooden bar, in which something is received by sliding into it. Slots also refer to a job opening or assignment. The chief copy editor occupies a slot on a newspaper’s copy desk. The word “slot” is first recorded in the 1520s. A slot is also an aviation term, referring to an opening authorized by an airport’s air-traffic authority.
The term “slot” comes from the English language, where it originally meant a small opening. It was first used in 1747, as a verb, meaning “to provide with or cut a slot.” The word later gained a second meaning, which means “to drop a coin into a hole.” Its usage in sports, such as basketball, began in the 1940s, and its most recent sense emerged in 1966. Slots are often used to refer to an area between the faceoff circles in ice hockey.
Many slots were initially mechanical. Later, the symbols were increased to twenty-two, allowing 10,648 possible combinations. These mechanical slots had a limited number of outcomes and jackpot sizes. Later, in the 1980s, manufacturers began incorporating electronic components in the machine. The machines could be programmed to weight certain symbols differently, resulting in more winning combinations. As the payback percentage grew, the odds of losing a symbol decreased correspondingly, with the likelihood of winning disproportionate to the number of times the symbol appears on a physical reel.