Posted in Chatty

Word Origins: all the football things

Hey y’all! It’s about two months past the Super Bowl of American Football, and boy am I missing football. So to help curb my appetite for it, here’s a post of the origins of the word football (in both “soccer” and “American football” senses) and a whole bunch of related words that I learned are apparently just borrowed from things with COMPLETELY different meanings most of the time!

Origins of “football” (yes, both kinds)

When did it first get used?

What does it mean?
It’s first use just meant generally “an outside game where you kick a ball” and we have all really made it our own!

The reference to the ball used is like 1350s-ish so not long after it was officially named

“Soccer” as a meaning wasn’t until 1863!

And the American football meaning is in 1869.

That’s all well and good, but what I’m really interested with this is all the related-to-football words that have been dragged in from totally different words and repurposed.

What did it come from?
This is pretty unexciting. It literally came from the words foot and ball, since those were the main components of the game. 😅

All the other football words

Used to mean: pedestrian (1600s)
but now it means: a kick at a football (1781)

Used to mean: incomplete condition (1780)
but now it means: a pass or play that was not caught by the receiver (1926)

Used to mean: a worker on the telegraph or telephone lines (1858)
but now it means: a big bulky dude who protects the quarterback from the opposing team (1894)

Used to mean: a downward movement (1710 — really???)
but now it means: a chance to advance the ball (1882)

Used to mean: a tool (1400)
but now it means: someone who takes a hit instead of the runner (1941)

Used to mean: half of the time (1640s)
but now it means: the halfway point of the game where they take a break (1867)

Used to (also) mean: a flat-bottomed square-ended river boat (1500)
but now it means: to kick the ball away (1845)

Used to mean: a saddle made from pig leather (1855)
but now it means: slang term for a football (1894)

Used to mean: a book of stage plays (15302)
but now it means: a book of strategy options for football (1965)

Used to mean: the act of stopping bodily fluids (1500s)
but now it means: the opposing team gaining possession of the ball during a play (1897)

Used to mean: a person who receives stolen goods or knowingly houses criminals (1350s)
but now it means: a person who catches the ball in a play (1897)

Used to mean: apparatus or gear, especially in fishing (1250s)
but now it means: to forcefully knock your body into another to push them to the ground (1876)

Used to mean: to plunder ot loot (1540s)
but now it means: to tackle the quarterback (1969)


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

2 thoughts on “Word Origins: all the football things

  1. Interesting list of related words and how their meanings changed! Though I still use sack to mean loot (because pirate fiction is fun) and playbook to mean a book of plays (because I’ve worked with community theatre), and I still hear the telephone version of lineman sometimes. Then again, I am not really a football fan—either sport—so I don’t pay as much attention to those versions of these words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that! There’s definitely some words I hear / use more often than an average person because of what I’m involved in (gaming/MMO fantasy words mostly…) and sounds like you’re the same. I had no idea there were so many for this, but when I looked up football and saw pages of related words I was so curious!


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