Football, NFL, Not Basketball

So why Is American football called ‘football’ anyway?

American football is a beloved traditional past time in the United States. Along with baseball, the history of the game is deeply-rooted in the country’s relatively short history and is tired to the culture. The Super Bowl is unofficially a holiday and American Football betting is by far the most popular sport to wager on.

However football shares the name with a much more popular sport — futbol — also pronounced the same way. Unlike the football predominantly known as soccer in most parts of the world, It’s confusing to non-Americans because American football involves extensive use of hands and has its roots in rugby.

Tracing the Name of American Football: A Historical Journey

To unravel the historical origins of why it came to be known as “football” in the United States, we delve into its fascinating past. This article draws upon information from four reputable news sources to shed light on the evolution of the term “football” in American football. provides a comprehensive overview of American football’s development, tracing its origins back to the mid-19th century. The game began as a variation of rugby, primarily played in colleges across the Northeastern United States. In its early days, American football lacked standardized rules, leading to chaotic and often violent matches. As colleges sought to regulate the sport to minimize injuries, it evolved into its modern form. The article reveals how the term “football” was adopted due to its resemblance to rugby, which was already referred to as “football” in Europe.

The Guardian delves into the historical intricacies behind the use of the term “football” in American football. The article traces the term’s emergence in the United States to the early 19th century when British immigrants brought various forms of football to North America. As a result, multiple regional variations of the game developed, such as association football (soccer), rugby football, and gridiron football. The term “football” served as a generic label for games played on foot, distinguishing them from equestrian sports. The article emphasizes how the name “football” is deeply rooted in the historical context of football variants played during the country’s formative years.

Smithsonian Magazine explores the reasons for retaining the term “football” for a sport that heavily involves handling the ball with hands. The article traces American football’s early days when forward passing wasn’t allowed, and kicking was the primary method of advancing the ball. While the rules evolved over time, the name “football” endured, becoming ingrained in American culture. The article also highlights how this nomenclature distinguishes the game from other American sports like basketball and baseball.

The New York Times offers a concise history of American football’s name and its ties to its rugby origins. The article explores the 1869 match between Rutgers and Princeton, widely regarded as the first college football game in the United States. During this period, the term “football” was used interchangeably with “American rugby.” As the sport’s popularity grew, its rules diverged from rugby, leading to the birth of American football as a distinct entity. The article outlines how the name “football” persisted as a homage to the game’s origins, despite significant differences from association football (soccer).

The name “football” in American football has a rich history, tracing back to its early days as a variant of rugby. The term was adopted due to its resemblance to rugby, which was already referred to as “football” in Europe. As the sport evolved and gained popularity in the United States, the name endured, becoming an integral part of American culture. Understanding this historical context helps illuminate why American football came to be known as “football” in the United States, setting it apart from the sport predominantly known as football (soccer) in other parts of the world.

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