Lawns are a common feature of private gardens and public landscapes and parks in many parts of the world now. Lawns are created for aesthetic pleasure as well as for sports or other outdoor recreational use. Lawns are useful as a playing surface both because they mitigate erosion and dust generated by intensive foot traffic and because they provide a cushion for players in sports such as Rugby, football, soccer, cricket, baseball, golf, tennis, and lawn bocce.
Lawns may have originated as grassed enclosures within early medieval settlements used for communal grazing of livestock, as distinct from 'fields' reserved for agriculture. The word 'Laune' is first attested in 1540 and is likely related to the Celtic Brythonic word 'Lan/Llan/Laun' which has the meanining of enclosure, often in relation to a place of worship. Lawns became popular with the aristocracy in northern Europe from the Middle Ages onward. The damp climate of maritime Western Europe in the north made lawns possible to grow and manage. They were not a part of gardens in other regions and cultures of the world until contemporary influence.
Before the invention of mowing machines in 1830, lawns were managed very differently. Lawns were an element of wealthy estates and manor houses and in some places were maintained by the labour-intensive methods of scything and shearing. In most situations they were also pasture land maintained through grazing by sheep or other livestock. Areas of grass grazed regularly by rabbits, horses or sheep over a long period often form a very low, tight sward similar to a modern lawn. This was the original meaning of the word "lawn", and the term can still be found in place-names.
It was not until the Tudor and Elizabethan times that the garden and the lawn became a place created first as walkways and social areas. They were made up of meadow plants, such as camomile, a particular favourite. In the early 17th century the Jacobean epoch of gardening began. It was during this period that the closely-cut "English" lawn was born. By the end of this period, the English lawn was a symbol of status of the aristocracy and gentry.
In the early 18th century landscape gardening entered another design style. William Kent and Lancelot "Capability Brown" brought the Landscape garden style into popularity. Lawns appeared to flow from the garden into the outer reaches of the estate landscape. The open "English style" of parkland first spread across Britain and Ireland, and then across Europe, such as the Garden à la française being replaced by the French landscape garden.
In the United States it was not until after the Civil War in the 1870s that lawns began to appear beyond affluent properties and city parks. Most had neither the hired labor or leisure time to cut a field of grass with scythes, and most raised vegetables and flowers. During the Victorian era, as more plants were introduced and available horticulturally in Europe, lawns became smaller as flower beds were created and filled with perennials, sculptures, and water features. At the end of the 19th century suburban development with land around residences began, and along with sprinkler technology, improved and mass produced lawn mowers, new expectations about gardens, and a shorter working weeks; lawns came of age in the U.S. and northern Europe. Through the 20th century Western landscape influence brought the lawn to many parts of the world.