Rain check is a popular idiom in the English language that can be seen or heard in many conversations that talk about a particular schedule. A conversation might go something like ‘Can you make it to dinner tonight?’ to which the other person may answer ‘I’ll take a rain check, the missus is not feeling very well.’
To take a rain check basically means to take up an offer at another or a later date. There is some dispute as to where the term originated, however many agree that it’s based on the practice of issuing return tickets to baseball games in the 1880’s. Because baseball games are played in open fields, scheduled games might be postponed or cancelled due to bad weather. Abner Powell, a major league baseball player and later manager and owner of baseball teams, popularized the idea by adding a perforated stub to game tickets, which can be exchanged for another game if the weather turned foul.
By the 1900’s the term was used extensively for other transactions, especially for retail shopping. For instance, if a discount for cigars was offered over a certain period of time and customers lined up, but few were not able to purchase because stocks ran out, the store manager can then issue a rain check for them to avail the same discount at a later date.
Today, a rain check is more popularly used as an idiom in informal conversations rather than as part of transactions.