Names for association football

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The names of association football are the terms used to describe association football, the sport most commonly referred to in the English-speaking world as "football" or "soccer".



The rules of association football were codified in the United Kingdom by the Football Association in 1863, and the name association football was coined in the UK to distinguish the game from the other versions of football played at the time, in particular rugby football. The word soccer is an abbreviation of association (from assoc.) and first appeared in English private schools and universities in the 1880s (sometimes using the variant spelling "socker"). [1] [2] [3] [4] The word is sometimes credited to Charles Wreford-Brown, an Oxford University student said to have been fond of shortened forms such as brekkers for breakfast and rugger for rugby football (see Oxford -er). Clive Toye noted "they took the third, fourth and fifth letters of Association and called it SOCcer." [5]

The term association football has never been widely used, although in Britain some clubs in rugby football strongholds adopted the suffix Association Football Club (A.F.C.) to avoid confusion with the dominant sport in their area, and FIFA, the world governing body for the sport, is a French-language acronym of "Fédération Internationale de Football Association" – the International Federation of Association Football. "Soccer football" is used less often than it once was: the United States Soccer Federation was known as the United States Soccer Football Association from 1945 until 1974, when it adopted its current name and the Canadian Soccer Association was known as the Canadian Soccer Football Association from 1958 to 1971.

Reaction against soccer

For nearly a hundred years after it was coined, soccer was an accepted and uncontroversial alternative in Britain to football, often in colloquial and juvenile contexts, but was also widely used in formal speech and in writing about the game. [6] "Soccer" was a term used by the upper class whereas the working and middle class preferred the word "football"; as the upper class lost influence in British society from the 1960s on, "football" supplanted "soccer" as the most commonly used and accepted word. There is evidence that the use of soccer is declining in Britain and is now considered there as an American English term. [6] Since the early twenty-first century, the peak association football bodies in soccer-speaking Australia and New Zealand have actively promoted the use of football to mirror international usage and, at least in the Australian case, to rebrand a sport that had been experiencing difficulties. [7] Both bodies dropped soccer from their names. [8] These efforts have met with considerable success in New Zealand. [9]

English-speaking countries


Usage of the various names of association football vary among the countries or territories who hold the English language as an official or de facto official language. The brief survey of usage below addresses places which have some level of autonomy in the sport and their own separate federation but are not actually independent countries: for example the constituent countries of the United Kingdom and some overseas territories each have their own federation and national team. Not included are places such as Cyprus, where English is widely spoken on the ground but is not amongst the country's specifically stated official languages.

Countries where it is called football

Association football is known as "football" in the majority of countries where English is an official language, such as the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Caribbean (including Trinidad and Tobago, [lower-alpha 1] Jamaica, Barbados and others), Nepal, Malta, India, Nigeria, Cameroon, Pakistan, Liberia, Singapore, Hong Kong and others, stretching over many regions including parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Central America.

Fitbaa, fitba or fitbaw is a rendering of the Scots pronunciation of "football", often used in a humorous or ironic context.

North America

In the United States, where American football is the dominant code, the word football is used to refer only to that sport. Association football is most commonly referred to as soccer.

As early as 1911 there were several names in use for the sport in the Americas. A 29 December 1911 New York Times article reporting on the addition of the game as an official collegiate sport in the US referred to it as "association football", "soccer" and "soccer football" all in a single article. [10]

The sport's governing body is the United States Soccer Federation; however, it was originally called the U.S. Football Association, and was formed in 1913 by the merger of the American Football Association and the American Amateur Football Association. The word "soccer" was added to the name in 1945, making it the U.S. Soccer Football Association, and it did not drop the word "football" until 1974, when it assumed its current name.

In Canada, similar to the US, the term "football" refers to gridiron football (either Canadian football or American football; le football canadien or le football américain in Standard French). "Soccer" is the name for association football in Canadian English (similarly, in Canadian French, le soccer). Likewise, in majority francophone Quebec, the provincial governing body is the Fédération de Soccer du Québec. This is unusual compared to other francophone countries, where football is generally used. For example, in FIFA, an acronym for the world governing body of the sport, the "FA" stands for football association (French for "association football"). Some teams based in the two countries have adopted FC as a suffix or prefix in their names; in Major League Soccer; these include FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, New York City FC, Los Angeles FC, and FC Cincinnati.

In Central America, the only English-speaking nation is Belize, and like the other six Central American nations, the unqualified term football refers to association football, as used in the Football Federation of Belize and in the Belize Premier Football League. The term soccer is sometimes used in vernacular speech and media coverage, however. [11]

In the Caribbean, most of the English-speaking members use the word football for their federations and leagues, the exception being the U.S. Virgin Islands, where both federation and league use the word soccer.

An exceptional case is the largely Spanish-speaking Puerto Rico, where the word football is used in Puerto Rican Football Federation, while the word soccer is used in Puerto Rico Soccer League, the Puerto Rican 1st division; however, its 2nd division is named Liga Nacional de Futbol de Puerto Rico. Soccer is the most common term in vernacular speech, however. Another case is the Dutch island of Sint Maarten, where soccer is used in Sint Maarten Soccer Association, but neither football nor soccer appears in its league name.


Traditionally, the sport has been mainly referred to as soccer in Australia. However, in 2005, the Australia Soccer Association changed its name to Football Federation Australia, and it now encourages the use of "football" to describe the association code in line with international practice. [12] All state organisations, many clubs, and most media outlets [13] [14] have followed its example. The Macquarie Dictionary observed, writing prior to 2010: "While it is still the case that, in general use, soccer is the preferred term in Australia for what most of the world calls football, the fact that the peak body in Australia has officially adopted the term football for this sport will undoubtedly cause a shift in usage." [15] This was highlighted shortly afterwards when the Australian prime minister, speaking in Melbourne, referred to the sport as football, emphasising her choice when questioned. [16] The Australian men's team is still known by its long-standing nickname, the Socceroos.

New Zealand

In New Zealand English, association football has historically been called "soccer". As late as 2005, the New Zealand Oxford Dictionary suggested that in that country "football" referred especially to rugby union; it also noted that rugby union was commonly called "rugby", while rugby league was called "league". [17] A year earlier, New Zealand Soccer had reorganised its leading competition as the New Zealand Football Championship, and in 2007 it changed its own name to New Zealand Football. The wider language community appears to have embraced the new terminology—influenced, among other things, by television coverage of association football in other parts of the world—so that today, according to The New Zealand Herald , "most people no longer think or talk of rugby as 'football'. A transformation has quietly occurred, and most people are happy to apply that name to the world's most popular game, dispensing with 'soccer' in the process." [9]

Other English-speaking countries

On the island of Ireland, "football" or "footballer" can refer to association football or Gaelic football. [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] They may also refer to rugby union. [24] [25] The association football federations are called the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Football Association and the top clubs are called "Football Club". Furthermore, those whose primary interest lies in this game often call their sport "football" and refer to Gaelic football as "Gaelic football" or "Gaelic" (although they may also use "soccer"). [21] [22] [23] The terms "football" and "soccer" are used interchangeably in Ireland's media. [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33]

In South Africa, "soccer" is the more common name, used by all cultural groups when speaking English.[ citation needed ]

In the Philippines, both "soccer" and "football" are used as legacies of both American and Spanish rule. When used while speaking a Philippine language, the English spellings as well as the nativised spellings "saker" and "futbol" are used. The use of the word "football" has spread even more since the Philippine Men's National Football Team achieved semi-final success in the 2010 Suzuki Cup.[ citation needed ]

In Singapore, both "soccer" and "football" are used. The name of the governing body is the Football Association of Singapore but it is not uncommon for the sport to be referred to as "soccer" in everyday usage.[ citation needed ]

In Pakistan, Liberia, Nigeria and other English-speaking countries both football and soccer are used both officially and commonly. [34] [35] [36]

In Papua New Guinea, the national association is the Papua New Guinea Football Association but the national league is the Papua New Guinea National Soccer League.

Non-English-speaking countries

Association football, in its modern form, was exported by the British to much of the rest of the world and many of these nations adopted this common English term for the sport into their own language. This was usually done in one of two ways: either by directly importing the word itself, or as a calque by translating its constituent parts, foot and ball. In English, the word "football" was known in writing by the 14th Century, as laws which prohibits similar games back to at least that century. [37] [38] [39] [40]

From English football

This commonality is reflected in the auxiliary languages Esperanto and Interlingua, which utilize futbalo and football, respectively.

Literal translations of football (calques)

In the first half of the 20th century, in Spanish and Portuguese, new words were created to replace "football" (fútbol in Spanish and futebol in Portuguese), balompié (balón and pie meaning "ball" and "foot") and ludopédio (from words meaning "game" and "foot") respectively. However, these words were not widely accepted and are now only used in club names such as Real Betis Balompié and Albacete Balompié.

From soccer

Other forms

Other terminology

Aside from the name of the game itself, other foreign words based on English football terms include versions in many languages of the word goal (often gol in Romance languages). In German-speaking Switzerland, schútte (Basel) or tschuutte (Zürich), derived from the English shoot, means 'to play football'. Also, words derived from kick have found their way into German (noun Kicker) and Swedish (verb kicka). In France le penalty means a penalty kick. However, the phrase tir au but (lit. shot(s) on the goal) is often used in the context of a penalty shootout. In Brazilian Portuguese, because of the pervasive presence of football in Brazilian culture, many words related to the sport have found their way into everyday language, including the verb chutar (from shoot) – which originally meant "to kick a football", but is now the most widespread equivalent of the English verb "to kick". In Bulgaria a penalty kick is called duzpa (дузпа, from French words douze pas – twelve steps). In Italy, alongside the term calcio, is often used pallone (literally ball in Italian), especially in Sicily (u palluni).


  1. The nickname of the Trinidad & Tobago national team, "The Soca Warriors", refers to a style of music.
  2. In Bulgarian, the sport was initially called ritnitop (ритнитоп, "kickball"); footballers are still sometimes mockingly called ritnitopkovtsi (ритнитопковци, "ball kickers") today.
  3. except in French Canada where it is soccer.
  4. The calque balompié, from the words "balón" (ball) and "pie" (foot), is seldom used.
  5. Ukrainian used the phrase kopanyi myach (копаний м'яч), "dug ball", before World War II.

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<i>Football</i> (word) the word "football"

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Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is rooted in medieval ball games and English public school games. The modern game of association football originated with mid-nineteenth century efforts among local football clubs to the standardize varying sets of rules, culminating in formation of The Football Association in London, England in 1863. The rules drafted by the association allowed clubs to play each other without dispute and which specifically banned handling of the ball and hacking during open field play. After the fifth meeting of the association a schism emerged between association football and the rules played by the Rugby school, later to be called rugby football. Football has been an Olympic sport ever since the second modern Summer Olympic Games in 1900.

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The following is an alphabetical list of terms and jargon used in relation to Gaelic games. See also list of Irish county nicknames

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Football Group of related team sports

Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal. Unqualified, the word football normally means the form of football that is the most popular where the word is used. Sports commonly called football include association football ; gridiron football ; Australian rules football; rugby football ; and Gaelic football. These various forms of football are known as football codes.


Woggabaliri is a traditional Indigenous Australian "co-operative kicking volley game".

Comparison of Gaelic football and rugby union

A comparison of Gaelic football and rugby union is possible because of certain similarities between the codes, as well as the numerous dissimilarities.

Comparison of association football and rugby union

Comparison of association football (football/soccer) and rugby union (rugby/rugger) is possible because of the games' similarities and shared origins.


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