The Origin of the Word 'Soccer'

The origin of the word 'Soccer'
The origin of the word 'Soccer' | Source

Is it Soccer or Football?

I grew up in America playing soccer and as a result, was a huge fan of the sport.

As I got older, I started to follow the sport in many other countries, especially Europe. But I found it was known by a different name there.

In many other countries, soccer was called football. This made a lot of sense (after all, you do kick the ball with your foot), but there was a problem, I already knew of a sport that used that name.

In America, the most popular sport to watch is called football, but it does not often consist of kicking the ball with your feet. It involves people passing an odd shaped ball and trying to tackle the ball carrier before he reaches the endzone to score a touchdown.

So if you start talking about the sport of football in America, you will certainly get people talking about touchdowns and tackling.

Over time I started to hear different explanations for why Americans called European football, soccer. The most common explanation I heard, and thus accepted, was that Americans were just obstinate and wanted to change the name to an ‘American’ name so they used soccer. I also ‘heard’ that many English people found it offensive when people used soccer instead of football because the English invented the sport, so everyone should use the name they use.

And Then I Learned the Truth About the Word ‘Soccer’

I was reading a book called Soccernomics (fantastic book for any soccer fan by the way!) and it mentioned something about the origin of the word soccer that caught my attention and caused me to dig deeper for the answer.

The Answer – Why it is Called Soccer in America

Soccer is called soccer in America because in the 1970’s, when the first league was created, a name was needed for the sport. Soccer and Football were BOTH words from England; however, football was already used by another sport in America, so naturally they used the other name, soccer.

It turns out the word soccer comes from England, and was often used from the late 1800’s to about 1970 (about the same time America decided to use it…). Some sources even suggest that the word ‘soccer’ was much more widely used in England by the upper class for several years until the sport caught on with the middle and lower class who referred to it as football.

Origin of the Word ‘Soccer’

The word ‘soccer’ came about because in 1863 a group of teams decided to use a standardized set of rules which they called ‘Association Football’. The word ‘Association’ specified the standardized rules they played by as opposed to the many other rule variations others played by at the time.

As time went on, a nickname was quickly generated for ‘Association Football’ and it was called simply, “Assoc’. Apparently, adding ‘-er’ to the end of words was popular at the time (rugby became rugger) and the first few letters of ‘Assoc’ wouldn’t make a very good nickname, so the last three were used, thus creating the word, Soccer.

According to some legend, an oxford student was the first to call the game ‘Soccer’ and it quickly caught on after that with other students and university people. What is interesting is that the first time the game was called simply ‘football’, was years after it was called soccer!

Conclusion – So What do we Call It?

The discovery that the word ‘Soccer’ is just as appropriate as using the word ‘football’ will lead me to continue using soccer when describing the sport. I have found it quite interesting that the words soccer and football were both created in England, and yet only football is used today to describe the sport throughout Europe.

So, should anyone change what they call the sport? No, I don’t think so, it is equally valid to call it soccer or football, but just make sure the other person understands what sport you are talking about!

I hope you found this as interesting as I. Leave a comment with your thoughts on the origin of the word Soccer!

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Comments 34 comments

Drunken gator profile image

Drunken gator 4 years ago

Great Hub. Never knew soccer came from England. I will always refer to is soccer. It's what i know it as.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Drunken gator - Same here, always called it soccer, so I will continue to! Thanks for your comment!


Liberum profile image

Liberum 4 years ago

In Africa it's football, in South America it's football, in Asia it's football, in Europe it's football but in USA it's soccer?! Conclusion - damn Americans! Haha :)


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Liberum - Haha. Actually, in Japan it is soccer, as well as Australia and Canada, but yes, it does seem odd that the US is one of only a few who choose to call it by a different name! Thanks for dropping by.


Liberum profile image

Liberum 4 years ago

Anyway, interesting hub from you. Shared it on Twitter.


JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Very interesting hub internpete, I remember watching archive footage of English football from the 1930s the other day and the commentator referred to the game as soccer, so it seems kind of strange that many Europeans get upset whenever they hear Americans calling the sport 'soccer'. Personally I think soccer is actually the more appropriate term because there are in fact many different forms of football: Rugby Union Football, Rugby League Football, American Football, Aussie Rules Football and Association Football (soccer). Thanks. Voted up etc.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

JKenny - A very good point. And I would agree that soccer is a more appropriate name for the game because, as you mentioned, football is too broad a term. Thanks for your insight and comment!


A M Werner profile image

A M Werner 4 years ago from West Allis

Good hub. I've played the sport all my life in America and was raised calling it soccer. As I got older and played with more guys from overseas I learned to speak differently in certain company. Now when I'm playing soccer, most of the guys speak of it as futbol. Our team has guys from Europe, Asia & Africa. When I'm around everybody else in America, it's soccer again. Peace


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

A M Werner - Very nice. Isn't it cool that one sport can bring so many people together? I always loved that about the sport, no matter what you call it! Thanks for reading and commenting!


SpiffyD profile image

SpiffyD 4 years ago from The Caribbean

The rule of thumb seems to be that wherever there's a popular sport in a country called football, the name 'soccer' is used. Given that it has English origins, it's no big deal and actually leads to less ambiguity. Still, it makes far more sense for soccer to be football than any other sport.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

FaisalKhan2121 - Well, there is already a sport that uses that name, plus, as I mentioned in this hub, soccer is just as worthy a name as football. Thanks for commenting!


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

SpiffyD - Yes, that does seem to be how it is done. It would make more sense to call soccer football, but when American football was first started they called it football because it was played on your feet as apposed to other games played on horseback. Thanks for your comment!


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi internpete, great and very interesting hub, i think here in America there is already one sport named football so i guess they didn't want another with the same name.

Vote up and more !!!


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

kashmir56 - Yes indeed, thanks for visiting and commenting!


CCahill profile image

CCahill 4 years ago from England

Nice to learn something, really interesting.

I just wish we could standardize it, so that everyone uses to just one word, would make a few thing simpler


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

This is something I did not know and am glad that you posted. Yet another thing that England has shared with us. In Spanish, soccer is referred to as futbol and "football" is soccer. It does seem confusing when you compare it to the US football game.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

CCahill - Yeah, it would be nice if it was standardized. Maybe we should make up a new word, and see if it catches on.... ( -; Thanks for dropping by!


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

teaches12345 - Haha, yes it does get a little confusing! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!


James Vernon profile image

James Vernon 4 years ago from UK

Yes,i remember reading that the word soccer had maybe come from 'Association football'. At that point the writer said the wasn't totally sure. Good to hear that it seems to be the case.

Good hub. Voted up.


dinkan53 profile image

dinkan53 4 years ago from India

Interesting hub and i enjoyed reading it. Regular viewer of football and happy to read everything related to it. Rated as interesting.


CCahill profile image

CCahill 4 years ago from England

Sure! What shall we call it?


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

James - Yes, it can be tricky to determine the facts from the myths or legends. I found a handful of good sources that are all in agreement. Thanks for your comment!


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

dinkan53 - Thanks and I am glad this was enjoyable for you to read!

If you're looking for more football hubs, or even want to join a group that focuses on English football, then I would suggest you check out the Football Hubbers Network here on hubpages

http://hubpages.com/sports/Football-Hubbers-Networ...

Thanks for your comment!


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Cahill - Don't ask me, I'm not that creative, plus an american nickname would never catch on in Europe! haha.


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 4 years ago from California

Since countries like Australia and Ireland have their own native versions of football, it seems to be more common for people to use the term soccer.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Yes indeed, America, Canada, Australia and others use soccer instead of Football because they already have sports that use the word football. Thanks for reading and commenting!


Ebower profile image

Ebower 4 years ago from Georgia

This is so interesting! I always wondered why we called it 'soccer'. Silly Americans, we have to go and make things confusing. I really enjoyed this. I played soccer for about 10 years of my life. I voted this up and useful!


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Ebower - I am glad you found this interesting, it was a surprise to me when I first started looking into where America got the word soccer from. That's neat you played for 10 years, I started when I was 5 and never stopped! Now I mostly watch it on TV. Thanks for your comment!


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Hi, internpete. I'm astounded. I've been going to football (soccer?) since I was about three years old and never knew that we started the word soccer over here. I have always thought it was an American "slang" word to avoid confusion over American football. Certainly I knew the game was originally referred to as Association Football (and many clubs still have AFC after their names, standing for Association Football Club) but the soccer revelations took me by surprise. I have certainly learned something today - and I'm now off to win bets with friends! :) Great hub.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Gordon Hamilton - Glad you found this interesting! I to, was astounded when I first started looking into this subject. It certainly made me feel more comfortable calling it either soccer or football. Thanks for your comment!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

I lived in South America for three years and you dared not call the game soccer, it is and always will be futbol! ;) Anyway, I often wondered how it got the name soccer. Thanks for clearing things up for me!


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

lindacee - Yes, there are some places where you need to just call it what the locals do. Thanks for your comment!


Maryam 3 years ago

this is amazing , the whole game is amazing everything about it is amazing :)

thanx for the effort :)


worldsoccer profile image

worldsoccer 22 months ago from Dhaka

hm great hub, thanks for sharing. I think football is the appropriate word for this game, you also mentioned it, "soccer was called football. This made a lot of sense (after all, you do kick the ball with your foot)"

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