We originally published this blog in June 2010, but in honor of the Super Bowl, we are revisiting the subject.
If you’re reading this in the U.S. or Canada, then maybe you love soccer. If you’re reading this pretty much anywhere else, then perhaps you love football.
One person’s idea of a cute habit is responsible for the most popular sport in the world having two names.
One person’s idea took off so wildly that it dictates what millions of people call the game being played at the Super Bowl.
Let’s start in England in the 19th century. Kids played their own versions of football however they felt like it. A bunch of private schools got together to standardize the rules, which of course led to lots of arguing. The arguments gave birth to two games: Rugby football (named after a school called Rugby) and Association football, after the Football Association.
Enter a fellow named Charles Wreford-Brown, one of Association football’s early heroes. Brown was fond of a slang fad called an Oxford-er (like a vintage version of today’s “izzle” craze.) It works like this: you shorten a word and add “-er” on the end. Breakfast becomes “brekker.” Rugby is “rugger.”
Association football was called “footer”, but Brown had a different idea. He took the word Association, chopped off the A, sliced off the –iation from sociation and called it “soccer” instead. Weird, but true. It may not be the most logical name in the history of sports, but his influence is one of the reasons we don’t have footer leagues today. And if we did play footer instead of soccer, what would we call playing footsy?
What exactly does hike, as in “hut, hut, hike” mean? Find out.
Since American football (based on rugby) had already taken off by the time Association football became popular in the U.S., soccer stuck. The truth is, however, that soccer wasn’t universally accepted over football in the U.S. for a long time. The governing body for soccer in the U.S. was called the United States Soccer Football Association until 1974.
I still don’t see why American football has that name, as the players rarely use their feet for anything besides running. The kick after a touchdown is the only exception I know of.
American football would better be called American Rugby Football. Click on the link for a more complete explanation.
Even the Aussies have their own brand of “football” which also involves a lot of ball kicking. Why don’t we standardize the name throughout the world, especially the type of “football” under the auspices of FIFA is gaining popularity throughout the world?
In the UK, football (soccer) is often colloquially abbreviated to “footie”
im from india and we call soccer football because we use our feet to play soccer.
Every game of American football starts w/ a kickoff. Also, the team which scores a field goal or touchdown must also immediately kick the ball to the other team. Additionally, punting (a player dropping the ball in front of himself & kicking it away from his endzone) frequently happens. There is plenty of kicking in American football, certainly enough to warrant keeping the “foot” reference.
I don’t get why someone would want to call soccer soccer and football football. Soccer uses the feet more than football. So, it should universally be called football so it wouldn’t confuse so many people.
And football should be called soccer (if there are no other better names) because you end up socking some people as you are tackled…
I think… the opening kick, the touchdown seal-deal kick, the touchdown give-up 3pt kick &, maybe most importantly, you don’t run the yards with your hands… I’ll give it to the Americans from now on. I won’t argue with them anymore. They can call it football.
@ Jeanna: Did you read article?
It is interesting knowing the etimology of the word ’soccer’. I appreciate this addition to knowledge.
THEY SHOULD JUST SHAY FOOTBALL AND SOCCER, WHY MAKE IT SO HARD!!!!!!!!!!
[...] doesn’t make Bud Wiser. — it’s not for what Edgar Poe would pay. — We believe this is linked to dictcoms first HOT WORD and we’re trying to fill in some blanks — to [...]
I think american football should be called handball because you rarely use your feet and there is a lot involving your hands!
Foot-ball would suggest the using of feet to move a ball, hence the reason American Football is called Handegg in my house.
If the fact that you run the yards with your feet qualifies as an arguement to call american football “foot”ball than we might as well call every sport football since really all sports involve running. American football should really be american rugby.
why dont we make it bloody simple and call ‘american football’ ’soccer’, and the REAL football just ‘football’. that way worldwide confusion doesn’t occur.
American football has evolved over the years. Before the forward pass was made legal, there was much more kicking in the game. More than enough to warrant the name it has today.
Yeterday, Saturday, February 4, 2012 there was a topic on Dictionary.com word creative use by the blogers and also there was a video clip on someone wrpping….
I see it’s there no more. Also, I can’t find it at all!. It’s gone. Disappeared in to thin air… like camphor
Ah well. Must have reasonings behind. Hurried to leave.
The following is for the indiangirl that said I am from India. There! since she is from India should be ==>Girl from India would sound better, as there are so many indiangirl exists here there and everywhere. Just a suggestion.
Originated in the United Kingdom in the mid 1800s, it was then just a simple ball being kicked around in across your opponent’s goal line. Add a little rugby into the mix and you get Gridiron Football ( referring to the grid on the field). Good old American football; a money-making machine for some, a religion for others. For the ones that could care less, such as myself, still contribute to the Super Bowl ratings by enjoying the commercials, the half time show and the party in good company.
Football, American football…Well there is no need to be terminologically accurate as there is technically no other type of football ( please, no one cares about Canadian football … sorry Alouettes).
As the Brits say: “Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen and Fútbol (as in soccer) is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans“. So what is Football then? As the Brits didn’t bother to comment, because of their non involvement perhaps, I’ll complete the quote myself. “Football is not a game and no one involved is playing“.
This institution as the highest rate of injury and death than any other sports. Keep in mind that one season is only 16 games during a 17-week period. Even if some athletes are lucky enough to retire in one piece, the majority of them will manifest signs of dementia, memory, parkinson, tremours, pathological paranoia, loss of memory and lack of coordination thanks to the portfolio of concussions that came along with their contracts.
“We can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light. One inch, at a time. Because in either gamelife or football the margin for error is so small.
I’ll tell you this, in any fight, it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch.
And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because I am still willing to fight and die for that inch because that is what living is.
That’s a team, gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football guys. That’s all it is.”
- Al Pacino’s Inch by Inch partial speech in “Any Given Sunday”.
giants gonna beat pats ofcourse
I think american football should be called handball because you rarely use your feet and there is a lot involving your hands!
American football should be called “throwball”
In France, football (soccer) is often shortened to “foot”.
This story is sort of false… yeah the origin of the word soccer is true, but the reason American Football is called Football is because when the revolution occurred everything was anti-England. Football (Soccer) was popular in England at the time and also in the Americas before the war began (yes, soccer was once more popular than American Football in America). When the war was over, the anti-English attitude still existed. American Football is invented during this time of anti-England and as sort of a middle finger to all “English blokes,” Americans named their new sport football. The anti-English attitude is also the reason none of us Americans speak “loike this all the blood’y toime.” It was to distance ourselves from England.
In Mexico we call “Panboleros” to whoever plays soccer, since only the low class people follow soccer. You could use to see dirt courts around the city with people full of dirt like bakers that’s why they are panboleros. It is a stupid sport so-called national in Mexico, but there is no championships won, there is no proud on the level they play and also is just handled by gangsters, who also handle the national TV in Mexico. It is a sport that I would be very glad to disappear around Mexico.
American Football is played very well, not at the same level as the US, but there are teams at different levels who compete against americans and have been successful. It is a long road but at the amateur level American Football in Mexico fills more stadiums than the ugly professional soccer that is played in my country.
Exactly IndianGirl! My mom is indian and she says that they call ’soccer’ football. It makes sense, right? I mean, you use your foot to kick the ball… what do you do in football? you run and just kick the ball once after a touchdown. Brown’s theory is kinda weird, but creative. I’m just wondering why it’s called soccer only in the US and Canada. Can anyone answer that question? Thank you!! I luv dictionary.com!!!!!!!!!!!!
I guess Australian Football & Australia in general don’t count in the eyes of the blog creator.
Yes Football should be Football in all aspects. As american “football” should be called something completely different since they cover almost their entire body with padding, then think their big tough men. Let’s put em on the pitch and see how well they take a tackle…my puppies also play the sport of Football, in my house…2 a side.
One hypothesis is that the reference to foot comes from way back when to distinguish the difference between sports played on foot vs sports played on horseback.
If you play mostly with your feet call it football, if you play mostly with your hands call it Rugby or handball.
So American football is called “football” because they just drop the word “rugby” in “rugby football”? I still don’t get it.
I’m an American and I love soccer, but I’ve really gotten used to calling it “football”
This article did a pittance to explain the meaning behind the word “football”, but then again, maybe that wasn’t the objective.
To the seemingly endless horde of people who question the second term in “American football”, it’s simply because it is a game played on foot. That’s it. That’s all. Football has two defining characteristics: 1) it is a game played with a ball and 2) on foot, as opposed to the kind played on the back of a horse, for example.
In days long past, that was what it meant for a game to be a kind of “football” in English. By the time Association and Rugby (and later, American) varieties split off, both were (and still are) called “football”.
In Australia rugby league is called “football” north of the Murray River; to its south football usually refers to Australian Rules, an obscure game only played in the southern states
Don’t Americans say “gridiron” any more for American Football? Outside of the US, English-speakers usually refer to it as gridiron. And handball is an altogether different sport, played at the Olympic Games by European nations, especially from Central, Northern and Eastern Europe.
You mostly use your hands in American football.
In soccer or football ,you use your feet.So you should just have football(aka soccer).
As an aussie, well Melbournite (the home of the mighty MCG), football means one thing and that is aussie rules!! However, I am culturally aware that to many more northern aussies, football means nothing but rugby, to Europeans and a good portion of the world it is soccer, and for americans it is american football. Not to mention the gaelic variety I was priveleged to attend whilst in Dublin…. Football, footy, rugby, soccer, american rules, australian rule, gaelic and international rules (a mix of gaelic and aussie rules) – it is all good fun as long as we know what we’re talking about and not getting confused! Gotta love multi-culturalism.
They’re three different developments of the same game.
The article still doesn’t explain why americans call their sport football. The incidental use of their feet to kick the ball by 2 (relatively unimportant) players, at very specific times, out of the entire squad isn’t enough of a justification (and never will be). Of course the name will never be changed, but also, it will never actually be ‘football’ either.
If the US adopted the universal term American Football, it might help, though that might require an acknowledgement that the winners of their national league are not actually world champions!!
I found this article to be informative and enjoyed learning more about the etymology of “soccer.”
Since football in all its forms seems to have originated from the peasant class of medieval Europe, I personally think that “football” is most accurately understood as an umbrella term for sports played on foot, standing in contrast to the more aristocratic, equestrian sports. Thus there is no real problem for me with the name of American football staying as is. Although I do kind of like @yayRay…’s idea, LOL!
hahaha u guys dont kno nothin’ bout football its an aweosme game thats it nothingmore nothing less
hola 2 u 2
It doesn’t warrant keeping the foot reference.
Kickoff, Punt, Field Goal, Running.
If you count running, count many other sports with a ball not in the Paralympics as a type of football.
World Football/Soccer: Ball handling(merely moving the ball with the feet), passing, shooting for goals, etc.
So-called soccer was football before American Football was.
I like American Football, but I can’t stand the morons who think it deserves to be called football more than the game the rest of the world calls football.
I still didn’t get it, wat an dumb explanation
Weird, but convincing. I mean most of the info. is about the Association Soccer.
Not forgetting Gaelic football in Ireland and Australian Rules which appears to have elenments of Gaelic football, rugby and American football. I would have to concede that soccer has first claim on the term ” football ” as it is almost exclusively the feet that are used to move the ball and Gaelic football would come next – the latter having an element of particular skill in that players sometimes move the ball from toe to hand as they run.
this is all so stupid
yep i was right:)!
@ John on February 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm
I get what you’re saying, but honestly, using that logic is like saying motor sports should be called walking because the drivers walk to their car , and walk away from it. You could call hockey ( in any form ) football too because it is a perfectly acceptable way to deflect the puck with the skate. In the face of tradition I think ‘American Football’ is about as good as you’re going to get. Americans would never commit the heinous act of messing with their beloved sport. , in name or otherwise.
The USA is the only place I know that calls football “soccer”.
Whenever someone in the USA talks about football I always have to ask them if they mean “football” or “American football”.
I agree with the people that say American football should have a different name…you rarely use your feet to play it.
i have i great idea.i mean two names one for each sport soccer coul be call( futbol) is the real name and american football is simple like that (american football)
I will start this off with ‘when in Rome…’ We call it ‘Football’. We don’t need any other country’s permission to call it that. I would doubt that any other country plays football like us. It’s just as as asinine for me (an American) to tell you (other countries) to call it ’soccer’ in your country. You know what you call it and I know what I call it. At the end of the day, that is exactly what we will do and nothing your nor I will say will change that. It’s a moot point.
k I just need to know do I need more football stuff on my web rockindockingames.weebly.com
@ John, the fact that you can name only 3 instances when the ball is kicked throughout an entire game, should suggest that the name” football” is probably better suited for what only a very small part of the world calls “soccer”. @professorkaizen, I agree…the name should be standardized to avoid confusion between countries and cultures; American Football should be called American Rugby (@RWB) and soccer should be called Football (as it is known everywhere in the world other than North America).
The stuff they play at the Super Bowl should be called HandEgg. The players use their hands to carry an egg-shapped object.
And that is correct, i agree with the fact that if you use your hands more that your feet to play this game, why call it “football” if your feet is what you use the less? why not call it “handball” instead? why call soccer a game that you play with your feet ALL THE TIMES and that if you touch the ball with your hands you are defaulting the rule?
lol @ yayray – that clears up alll confusion! ha but whats the point of logic these days!
who really cares
There might plenty of “kicking” in American Football, but the feet are used much more in “soccer.” Plus the hands are used much more in American Football than soccer. Gridiron Football or Throwball would be more fitting names. I like/use Throwball!
The term ‘football’ did not originate from the description of connecting the foot with a ball.
Rather it was a differentiation of a ball game played whilst on foot as opposed to on a horse, such a polocrosse.
The claim Association Football makes over the name is an arrogant one. They’ve no more right to the name than Rugby Football, Rugby League Football, American Football, Australian Football, Canadian Football or Gaelic Football.
I, for starters, think football should not be called as it is because the players barely use their feet at all except when running. Unfortunately, I don’t know what to name it but what do you guys think? My brother says it should be “Touch-Ball” but I tend to highly disagree. All in favor please create a new name thus, I shall isolate my thoughts.
sup yall how did yall like the supperball?
Handball? Already taken. By the way too bad the real handball is not popular or known in the US. If you like basketball you would love handball!
weridand cool GO GIANTS!!!!!!
@MARRY:it superball not “supperball”
I just have to say that I am from Moldova Republic which is in Europe and there we call soccer football because you actually use your feet all throughout the game. I think that American Football should have a different name because you rarely use your feet in the game and that doesn’t make any sense calling American Footbal “football”. The foot in the word football is not used that much in a game of American Football, and it confuses people from other countries.
yeah……i think it’s better that they called it according to how they play it..why they called it football?????? when often times they used to run and not kicking the ball………..that’s the game of weird people…………………
Isn’t it spelled futball in Spanish?
Wow that is a really shocking!!!!!!
@SHERRYYU …sorry i was typing fast
In America and Canada we love football and we hate soccer it is a stupid sport. I mean come on when is there soccer on espn and when is there football pretty much all the time on sundays in November, December, and January there is football come on then every where else they like soccer. GO FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!:)
really………I think you can say soccer to American football and “Football” to “Football”……….!!!!!!!!
What about tackleball?
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What about the Australian Football League?? There are three types!
Sorry to join this a bit late, but if anyone’s still reading…
@Aussiesportsnut and @Ted Voth Jr are spot-on, but most of the other comments on here are way off the mark.
@professorkaizen – “Why don’t we standardize the name throughout the world” – who on earth do you think would do the standardizing? Is there a World Sports Naming Authority that could tell everyone what each sport should be called, and lock people up for stepping out of line? Be serious.
There’s no way that 300 million Americans will suddenly start calling their sport ‘American rugby’, ‘handegg’ or whatever.
‘Football’ can mean soccer, American/Canadian football, rugby union/league, Aussie Rules or Gaelic football. It can also mean all of them at once – it depends on the context.
American football evolved from rugby, at a time when rugby was mostly known as ‘football’, even in Britain. The rules changed, but the name stuck.
There are three theories about how the word ‘football’ came about:
1. Because the ball is kicked (makes sense, but the word was used in England for centuries to mean what we now call ‘folk football’, which was almost entirely a handling game).
2. Because it was played on foot (not very logical, as most ball games are played on foot – but that’s what happens with language – words and expressions come into use without always making complete sense).
3. Because the ball was about a foot long (very logical, but I’ve only seen it in one place).
For the stories behind all these sports, you might like to take a look at my ebook – please click on my name for info.
For those of you who don’t know, American Football is called “Football” because the ball is 1 foot long (12 inches).
GET A LIFE!!!
Since football that we know of today involves kicking, running, tackling and dribbling. Then we should leave it to the Britons and the rest of the world that football under FIFa is the true football. As for the American football we should call it ‘crashball’ or ‘ bumpball’ or maybe ‘wreckball’, since destroying and attacking someone physically is the primary target troughout the game.
Everybody calls their local version football.
Americans call their local code football, Australians call their local code football, and English people do the same.
Its not a purely American thing and it has nothing to do with what parts of the body you use. Everybody uses feet at some point. Some use hands, some use heads and other parts of the body as well.
The word soccer is used whenever association football is not the dominant code, and is derived from the ’soc’ part of ‘association’
Sometimes the soccer people get a little arrogant and try to rename other people’s versions. This is quite disrespectful of those other games and can be ignored. When they start trying to say that their game uses feet and others use their hands, they are obviously forgetting about goalkeepers.
American Football should be called “ArmorBall”, because they’re all wearing those silly suits.
End of story.
In addition to wondering why Americans fondly call their popular game football–in spite the game involving very limited use of the feet–I also cant figure out why they call winners of the Superbowl as ‘World Champions.’ Fact is, the American Football competition is played only among American teams–with no other countries’ teams involved. Ditto the American game of basketball (the NBA.competition) and baseball, also called the ‘World Series.’.
What might they call it if they were to win the FIFA World Cup involving over 100 participating countries from every nook and cranny of the world? Supra World Champions?