The Word Football and Its Many Uses Throughout the Sporting World
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The Word Football and Its Many Uses Throughout the Sporting World

The word football can have many meanings for any one of seven team sports used not just in the English speaking countries of the world as many countries use a localised version of football. This can vary or depend upon the national or even localised origins of each of the codes played within each game as well as the origins of the person using the word football.

The seven codes of football that come under the football category are association football, the Irish code of Gaelic football, the two codes of rugby (league and union), Australian rules football and the gridiron codes of both American and Canadian football.

There are 45 Federation Internationale de Football Association or FIFA affiliations across the world using English as their primary or official language. 43 of those associations use the term football within their official name for the sport that uses a round ball. The only two exceptions are the USA and Canada, both calling association football soccer. The Australians used to use soccer, but reverted to the international usage of football in 2005. New Zealand made a similar change the following year claiming the international game is known as football and not soccer.

In the southern hemisphere the term football can mean any one of four codes of the game in Australian English. The states of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia it can mean both Aussie rules football and association football, both are also referred to as footy, unofficially. The two codes of rugby, both played throughout the country are in these areas known simply as rugby. The other regions of Australia where rugby league is the most popular of the sports known as football it is known as league, football, or footy. To further confuse issues rugby union is known union, football or footy. Australian rules football is known by that description, AFL, or Aussie rules.

In Canada the word football is usually used to describe either Canadian or American football, they are both the same sport of gridiron, just under their national codes. Two Canadian teams that play in the American MLS, code of association football both have the title of FC, or football club. With an increase in TV viewing by audiences in Canada of the round ball game in the country the term is increasing to become confusing as to whichever code the follower favours. Rugby union played in Canada is always called rugby as there is virtually no rugby league played there.

In Ireland it can mean anyone of each of the codes played there of association, Gaelic or union. Generally the full titles are used here to avoid any misunderstandings, particularly within the sports media of the country.

New Zealand and the term football is almost exclusively used for rugby union, football is used to a lesser extent to describe rugby league and association football. Although officially the country now does not use the term soccer, many of the population still use that term to describe the sport.

In South Africa the term football is used for association football, despite the country’s leading domestic league being known as the Soccer League. The majority of the rugby played there is union and known as rugby or union to avoid being mistaken for the minority sport there of rugby league.

Within the United Kingdom, football is usually used to describe association football, the term of soccer if used the speaker may find themselves the subject of derision and the origins of the round ball game. Rugger is often used to describe rugby union. Rugby league is mostly played in the north of the country and in some of locations where league is the majority sport it is then known as league or football.

In the United States, football means American football, association football is almost without exception called soccer. Soccer is increasing in popularity within the US, particularly amongst its younger generations and immigrant population. The comparisons between the two rugby codes are generally not known by the majority of Americans, if the game is understood at all.

Many of the European languages use a version of football, similar sounding if spelt a little differently. This loaning of the version of the English word often has no similarity to the native words in those European languages of foot or ball.

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Comments (4)

LOL, this is fun. We use the term football here to mean "kick out".

This was a fun and interesting read.  Thanks, John!

This is fun and very informative! Hats off, John!

Very informative article on football. Thanks John.