What americans call soccer? Many believe that the word “soccer” is an American invention, but the term “soccer” originated in Britain, according to TIME and other news outlets.
Business Insider reported that, “In the early 1800’s, a bunch of British universities took ‘football’ a medieval game — and started playing their own versions of it, all under different rules.”
After these different versions were born, students at the University of Oxford began to give the different versions of the sport different names. “Rugger” (rugby football) was the name for rugby football and “Assoccer” (association football) was later shortened to “soccer,” according to History.
How ‘soccer’ became an American name for ‘football’
The different names for the sports began to grow popular across Britain and the world as they spread overseas. Smithsonian Magazine reported that British fans ended up choosing to call the sport “football” in the 1980s due to Americans choosing the word “soccer.”
In the U.S., a different sport was born out of mixing rugby and association football together to create gridiron football.
Britannica reported that most people began calling the second sport “football” and, in order to tell the two sports apart, the American association-football players started referring to their sport as “soccer,” by 1945.
British people only stopped using the term “soccer” about 40 years ago as the word grew popular throughout the U.S., according to Business Insider.
Most British people stopped saying ‘soccer’ because it’s what Americans called it
The interesting thing here is that Brits still used “soccer” regularly for a huge chunk of the 20th century. Between 1960 and 1980, “soccer” and “football” were “almost interchangeable” in Britain, Szymanski found.
“Since 1980 the usage of the word ‘soccer’ has declined in British publications, and where it is used, it usually refers to an American context. This decline seems to be a reaction against the increased usage in the US which seems to be associated with the high point of the NASL around 1980.”
Most British people stopped saying “soccer” because of its American connotations, however, UK broadcaster Sky Sports still used it to brand wildly-popular TV shows “Soccer Saturday” and “Soccer A.M.”
How did we end up with two names, football and soccer, for the same sport?
Let’s start in England in the 1800s. Young men, especially at boarding schools, played a number of versions of moving a ball (with hands or feet) across an opponent’s goal. At Rugby School, for instance, they played a version that allowed for use of the hands; at Eton College, only feet were permitted.
So, in 1863 in London, a Football Association (the world’s first) was formed to standardize the rules. Two codes resulted from it: rugby football, after Rugby School, and association football, after that newly formed association.
Where does the word soccer come from?
Now, around the 1870s, students, especially at Oxford University, were fond of a playful slang practice where they shortened words and added –er to their end. Breakfast, for instant, became brekker. Rugby? Rugger. Football? Footer.
The association in association football was also shortened to soccer. This clips off the first and last three syllables of association, leaving –soc-, onto which that chummy –er was added, yielding soccer. The term is first recorded as socker in 1891. Footer is slightly older, found in that fateful year of 1863.
What is the origin of American football?
But, what about that other football that people in the US bring to the Super Bowl? American football (a term recorded in the 1870s) is based on rugby and had already taken off by the time association football became popular in the US.
For whatever reason, the name soccer stuck for association football and football for the gridiron sport. In fact, the governing body for soccer in the US was called the United States Soccer Football Association until 1974.
Does anyone else around the world call football soccer?
Americans and Canadians aren’t alone, however, in calling the sport soccer. Many in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland call association football soccer, likely as a way to distinguish it from Australian rules football and Gaelic football, which are commonly referred to just as football in those places—just as Americans call American football simply football.
So, the next time a British person thumbs their nose at you for calling football soccer, you can let them know that soccer was a UK original! And, if you’re having trouble keeping all these names straight, take a page from Spanish and call it … fútbol!
Where did the word “soccer” come from?
Several games involving a ball, whether it be hitting, kicking, throwing, etc., were often referred to as different forms of “football” back in the 1800s. Soccer as we know it today became an official sport in 1863, when several English schools and clubs got together and formed the Football Association to establish a standard set of rules.
Rugby was then known as “rugby football”, so it was necessary to distinguish the two. Thus, it became known as “Association Football” in England.
So how did it go from Association Football to soccer then? The story is much like how pets get their nicknames. They start out as Emmitt Smith Jr., then it becomes Smitty, then Smitten Kitten…you get my point. Association Football is a long word, and people don’t like that.
It’s a lot of effort. So the British players began calling it “assoc”, which transformed to “assoccer”, and then finally “soccer” or “soccer football”.
We know why the British stopped using the name soccer. But why did the Americans keep it? In America, other sports began to emerge, one of which adopted the name football (from rugby football) and was the more popular sport in the country.
So to distinguish, soccer stuck for the sport with the ball you kick, and football stuck for the sport with the ball you throw.
Where did the word “football” come from?
This begs the question…where did the name football then come from? The British like to argue that what Americans call football and they call American football or gridiron football, makes no sense because it’s mostly played with your hands. So should we call it handball? Oh, wait, that one is taken, too.
Then they argue it should be called hand egg because the shape is not your typical round ball shape. It has not caught on – at least, not in America. (Fun fact: the people who invented the oval shape for the rugby ball and football were both European!) Rugby, soccer, and American football all evolved from the same sport, which was originally a sport that involved a bit more kicking.
Okay, then why did it not change from rugby football to American rugby, instead of just football? This, I cannot answer. However, one could argue that we call it football due to the length of the ball, which is approximately one foot.
We measure using the Imperial System, remember? (Which also started out in Britain, but I digress.)
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