With American football already popular in North America and being popularly known as football, Association football needed a new name to distinguish it in the United States, so it was called soccer.
At the same time, the term “soccer” was used in the United States to distinguish it from American football. In England, the two terms, “soccer” and “football,” were used interchangeably from the end of World War II until about 1980 in most publications. It was not until after 1980 that “football” started to become prevalent and “soccer” was used less and less.
American football (a term recorded in the 1870s) is based on rugby and had already taken off by the time association football became popular in the US. For whatever reason, the name soccer stuck for association football and football for the gridiron sport.
The word "soccer," which is believed to have originated in Britain some 200 years ago, comes from the official name of the sport, "association football." As other versions of the game evolved to include Rugby Football, it is believed the Brits adopted colloquialisms to distinguish each game.
Linguistically creative students at the University of Oxford in the 1880s distinguished between the sports of “rugger” (rugby football) and “assoccer” (association football). The latter term was further shortened to “soccer” (sometimes spelled “socker”), and the name quickly spread beyond the campus.
Soccer is played with a round ball that can be kicked and headed. American football, however, is more of a rugby type game in which the oblong shaped ball is thrown and passed as well as kicked. In the rest of the world, however, the word ‘football’ does not mean ‘American football’.
In the early 1800s in England, football and rugby existed as different variations of the same game. But in 1863, the Football Association was formed to codify the rules of football so that ...