Why is American football called "football" even though the players play with their hands more than their feet? It seems to be very similar to rugby, and doesn't have the name "American Rugby". What might be the reason for it to be called "Football" even though it is more similar to Rugby?

  • Found this on Wikipedia: > There are conflicting explanations of the origin of the word "football". It is widely assumed that the word "football" (or "foot ball") references the action of the foot kicking a ball. There is a alternative explanation, which is that football originally referred to a variety of games in medieval Europe, which were played on foot. There is no conclusive evidence for either explanation.
    – user252
    Feb 25, 2012 at 5:25
  • It should be called handegg.
    – Bebs
    Oct 8, 2019 at 8:28

3 Answers 3


American football is called football because of its origin. Its like soccer, can be traced back to rugby football where you use your feet to kick a ball at a goal or successfully carry a ball over a goal line. Over time, some rules were changed such as the concept of line of scrimmage and of four downs and a certain distance required to get more downs and, of course, the forward pass. In earlier times, football had virtually no rules. If you wish, you can trace its ancestry back to the 1600's.

I hope the following link will give pretty descriptive answer for your question.

  • 2
    And then there is Canadian football with a different sized field and 3 downs.
    – geoffc
    Feb 20, 2012 at 13:43
  • @Vijin Thanks for the answer.So the reason why the name football is shared is because it has evolved from football. Its actual name is "Gridiron".Even though the Link has the information saying that rugby is "Rugby Football", if you check the international rugby board website, the name "football" seems to have been dropped considering how the game has evolved to its present form. Is there any reason for American Football association not to remove "football" and keep it just "griridion".
    – kartshan
    Feb 20, 2012 at 17:51
  • Great answer, will just add a minor correction. Association football (soccer) is the oldest form of football to have its own written down rules, so it cannot be traced down to Rugby. Rugby football code was drafted later. All forms of football (Am, soccer, Rugby, aussie rules) originated from the football games that used to be played in boarding schools. Each school had its own rules. Often, when two schools played a game, rules for the specific game were agreed beforehead.Sometimes,rules of school A were used for half the game, and of school B for the other. Thats the origin of halt time.
    – deckoff
    Aug 17, 2016 at 9:53

Gridiron is American slang for the now obsolete field markings every five yards in both directions. This "gridiron" pattern made refereeing simpler when different rules existed for passing, kicking, and first downs. Gridiron was a simple one word designation to differentiate American football from the other two versions of the game back in the late 19th century; association football (soccer) and rugby football.

Before forward passing was introduced (1906), 19th century Gridiron or American football rules allowed a punting team to recover its own punt, hence it was an often used tactic to gain ground, as it is today in rugby. Also drop kick goals were more prevalent and scored relatively more compared to "touchdowns" . Field goals/drop kicks were 5 pts same as touchdowns until 1904. They were also easier because the ball was shaped with rounded ends similar to current rugby ball. Both of these situations generated much more use of the foot/kicking.

http://homepages.cae.wisc.edu/~dwilson/rfsc/RuleChanges.txt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_American_football#Rules_standardization_.281873.E2.80.931880.29

  • 2
    How does your answer relate to the question? Why football and not handball? Oct 17, 2013 at 20:37
  • There is already a sport called 'handball', although that uses the wrist
    – Oldcat
    Feb 12, 2014 at 1:29
  • @Oldcat. There are already two completely different sports called handball. One looks like a soccer/basketball cross and is played on a court; the other is like squash without racquets, and is played in an alley.
    – TRiG
    Jan 27, 2017 at 11:47

What I have been told by my American friends is this

It is called football because the ball with which it is played is at least one foot long and can't be shorter than one foot.

I could not find any article about this but yes the ball is 12.5 inches long

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