Why They Call Football Soccer, Or Why They Call Soccer Football

Here at Trusted Translations we’re not immune to the Brazil World Cup fever, and so it occurred to us to research why in the United States they call the game soccer (to the horror of many), and what we found was surprising.

It turns out that at the dawn of this sport that generates so much passion across the world, in England (and in the rest of the world) several kinds of football already existed. (A curious side note: it’s not called football because you play it with your feet, but rather because you play it on your feet.) Many of these sports had similar rules and in 1863 a group of English teams decided to set certain rules that would be used in all of their matches. That’s how the rules were created for Association Football (which to this day is the official name of the game), to distinguish them from Rugby Football.

However, during this period, the young English students at Oxford had the tendency to abbreviate words, adding the suffix –er to them. Thus, breakfast was “brekkers” and rugby was “rugger.” As the legend goes, an Oxford student named Charles Wredford Brown was asked if he wanted to play a game of rugger, to which he responded that he preferred soccer (association > “assoccer” > soccer), and as of that moment the young English gentlemen called the sport by that name. Only when soccer became popular among the working classes was it then called football (the first documented use of this denomination dates to 1881, 18 years after, according to the legend, it was informally called soccer).

There’s a saying that every day you learn something new, and today we’ve learned that far from being a subsequent invention, the name of soccer, it would appear, may well have been an earlier name for the sport that today is known throughout most of the world as football.