How did american football get its name ? Football, also known American football or gridiron football, is the most popular spectator sport in the United States. But most of us probably don’t know why it’s called “football” and not, say, tackleball or oblongball.
And yes, there’s a kicker on every team whose job is to launch the ball through a set of goalposts with his foot, but that’s not where the name of the sport originated either.
The exact etymology of the word “football” is slightly unclear, but many historians say the term dates back to the late Middle Ages, when it was used to refer to any sport that was played on foot, as opposed to sports played on horseback.
Over centuries, it came to be associated with different kicking games played throughout the U.K., the rules of which were eventually combined and standardized to form football (or soccer, as it became known in the U.S.) in the mid-19th century.
Around the same time, rugby — or rugby football — began developing in and around England. Though similar to soccer in that it required a team to advance a ball toward its opponents’ goal, it differed in that players could pick up the ball and run it down the field.
Over the next decades, American universities began playing their own early forms of football using rules derived from both rugby (rugby football) and association football (the sport that came to be known as soccer). And by the turn of the century, American games of football had evolved and adopted so many new rules that they barely resembled U.K. football.
This still leaves one important question unanswered: If we adopted the word “football” from overseas — where football is something else entirely — where did we get the word “soccer”?
Surprisingly, the word “soccer,” too, traces back to England. In order to distinguish the early versions of soccer-like games and games of rugby (both of which were often called “football”), fans of the former began calling it “association football,” a nickname derived from the name of the Football Association, which was charged with governing the sport’s rules. Over time, this was shortened to “assoc” or just “soc,” and slang-ified with an -er, according to Oxford’s Lexico.com.
Interestingly enough, this particular type of slang — adding -er to certain words — is thought to have been popularized by students at Oxford University, who adopted it from students at the Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, where the game of rugby is believed to have originated. (This same slang is said to be responsible for the word “rugger” to describe rugby, or the word “tenner” to describe a ten-pound note.)
Why Is The Game Called Football?
Like the game itself, the word “football” has foreign ancestors. Historians trace American football back to two European cousins, soccer and rugby. Both began as kicking games.
Soccer- the most popular sport in the world – was originally known as “association football.” Newspapers seeking a shorter phrase began to refer to it as “assoc.” That name was soon shortened to “soc” and then grew back a bit to “soccer.”
While rugby also began as a football game, in 1823 something occurred that changed the kicking game forever. A player named William Webb Ellis, instead of kicking the ball over the goal line, picked it up and ran it across. At first, observers didn’t know what to think. Eventually, the agreed it was a good idea. The game was played at the Rugby School and became known as rugby football, later shortened to rugby.
Both soccer-style football and rugby-style football eventually found their way to America. What resulted was an American combination of the two games. It was until much later (1906) that forward passing was allowed. So because the American game was really just another form of the European football games, it too became known as football.
Why is Football called Football if you play with your hands?
A common question asked is why football is called football? Is football actually soccer? Is it American football or football? Either way, if you don’t play football with your feet why is it called foot ball?
Each sport has a rich history with a story as to how it was formed, how it grew, and how it became the sport we know and love today. Most sports weren’t just formed overnight. It took a long process to get it to where it is now.
It is impossible to understand when and where the concept of soccer originated, but today it is known as a universal sport played by people everywhere. The interesting part is learning how American football grew.
SOCCER CAN ALSO BE REFERRED TO AS FOOTBALL, BUT AMERICAN FOOTBALL IS NOT REFERRED TO AS SOCCER.
First off, let’s get a bit of understanding of how these two sports came to be.
The sport of soccer involves solely using your feet to control and play during the game. Any use of your hands is considered foul play. Which is where the original term – football – came from. You’re controlling the ball with your foot.
Better yet, the official term for soccer is Association football, established by the Football Association, which was formed in 1863.
Where did the word soccer come from? It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when this occurrence formed. Overtime, the slang soccer was created, mainly used by North Americans, to simply refer to the game. It is hypothesized that the word came out of the word ‘Association.’
American football is mainly played by controlling the ball with your hands. So, people often wonder where the name came from if you’re not playing football with your foot.
AMERICAN FOOTBALL IS RELATED TO RUGBY WHICH WAS RELATED TO SOCCER
It’s not to say that soccer came first and then came rugby, they were an odd mesh that really formed one game of football. Rugby and soccer both originated in Britain, but it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century where the games became fully codified and differentiated. That’s when the two games split to what they are known as today.
After the codifying and creating Association Football, followers of the Rugby game grew and refused to let it be ‘obliterated’ by the creation of Association. As a result, around 10 years following the Association came the Rugby Football Union – cool. After this point, the two games drifted apart.
American football stems from rugby, which is which is where it got its name – football. Get it?
THE ORIGINAL GAMES WERE NEVER SO CLEAR CUT
As mentioned above, until the games were codified and diverged into Association and Rugby, most ‘football’ games were played through the use of both hands and feet. Back then, rugby and soccer were a weird game of their own. So, it’s actually not that off and odd for American football to be called football. Over time, each country adopted its own set of rules for the games such as Australia Football or Canadian Football.
We hope that clears up any questions you might have about soccer, or football, or American football or…
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The Spread of the Game Called Rugby Football to America
Just like soccer, rugby grew in popularity, particularly in public schools in the UK and was exported all over the world. However, unlike soccer, which was able to maintain a standard set of rules across the world, rugby was subject to a number of differing interpretations of the game.
Firstly, within the UK there was a split between those that wanted to maintain the amateur status of the game and those that wanted to play professionally, resulting in the split between the Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Football League. The other major interpretations of the game were played in the USA.
In 1869, Rutgers University played Princeton in a game that featured two teams of 25 players and a round ball that could not be picked up or carried but could be hit with the hands and feet with the intention of scoring points by kicking or running the ball into the goal area.
Various games between American colleges continued like this with the game being played by the home team’s own rules until officials from Yale, Princeton, Rutgers and Columbia met and came up with a standard set of rules that amongst other things forbade carrying the ball.
The Foundation of the Modern Game of American Football
However, it was after a game between Harvard and Yale was played in 1875 and watched by Princeton officials that the modern sport of American Football began to evolve. The rules of this game were much more akin to the original game of Rugby Football and it was under these rules that the main US colleges eventually decided to subscribe to and from which the modern sport of American Football evolved from, initially driven by Yale player Walter Camp, known as the ‘father of American Football’.
The Name ‘American Football’
You can see that the game of American Football’s name does not refer to the fact that it is a ballgame that is played mainly with the feet. Yes, there is kicking in the game of American football but its name is one that stems from its origins as a form of Rugby Football, albeit one that has evolved into considerably different, American form.
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