The techniques used in football (soccer) have distinctive names describing the type of skill executed. Where did these specialized terms originate and what do they reveal about key abilities? This guide examines the etymology and meaning behind technical football vocabulary, from passes and shots to tricks and tactics. Learning this language is crucial to mastering the game.


Passing involves transferring the ball to teammates using the feet. Types include:

Inside Pass – Using the instep to pass to the center. Keep the ball on the ground.

Outside Pass – Pass with the outer foot. Bends away from target.

Header – Redirecting the ball off the head.

Bicycle Kick – Acrobatic overhead kick with legs in the air.

Backheel – Kicking the ball backwards using your heel.

Through Pass – Passing the ball into space for a runner.

Lofted Pass – Chipping the ball high over defenders.

Precise passing is football’s fundamental skill for maintaining possession.


Striking the ball towards goal involves various techniques:

Strike – Powerfully kicking the ball. Keep your foot moving through contact.

Half-Volley – Striking the ball just as it bounces up from the ground.

Volley – Kicking the ball before it hits the ground.

Tap-In – From close range, lightly tapping it into an open net.

Penalty – Place kick awarded from the penalty spot.

Panenka – Softly chipping a penalty down the center.

Power Shot – Maximizing leg drive to unleash full force.

Goalscoring requires a combination of power, placement, and timing.


Dribbling entails controlling the ball while moving:

Touch – Soft touches to keep the ball close.

First Touch – Receiving and controlling an incoming pass.

Feint – Faking a move to unbalance defenders.

Stop and Go – Stopping suddenly then accelerating.

Stutter Step – Short start-stop motions to freeze defenders.

Cut – Sudden change of direction while dribbling.

Chop – Using the bottom of the foot to cut the ball laterally.

Maneuvering the ball while maintaining possession tests coordination.


Shielding protects the ball from defenders:

Jockey – Physically holding off a challenger while dribbling.

Box Out – Using the body as a barrier between opponent and ball.

Pressing – Applying full-body pressure against the defender.

Footwork – Pivoting and spinning away from pressure points.

A wider base of balance lowers center of gravity to anchor against contact when shielding.


Tackling involves taking the ball away from an opponent:

Slide – Sliding feet-first along the ground to poke the ball away.

Standing – Staying upright while winning the ball with a poking foot.

Last Ditch Tackle – Desperately tackling to prevent a shot on goal.

Regaining possession quickly is vital to thwart attacking threats.


The keeper’s role relies on these techniques:

Save – Stopping a shot from entering the goal.

Catch – Securing the ball cleanly with hands.

Punch – Punching the ball away from danger using fists.

Parry – Deflecting shots away with hands or feet.

Charge Out – Rushing out of goal to challenge attackers.

Distribution – Throwing or kicking the ball back into play.

The last line of defense must command their penalty area.


Controlling passes uses various traps:

Thigh Trap – Cushioning the ball’s impact with your thigh.

Chest Trap – Controlling the ball against the chest.

Foot Trap – Trapping the ball gently with the top of your foot.

Trapping minimizes bounces and kills the ball’s pace.


Crossing involves passing the ball into the box from wide areas:

Whipped – Putting bend and velocity on the cross.

Driven – Hitting it powerfully low and hard.

Lofted – Floating a high arcing ball to the far post.

Pull Back – Faking a cross before stopping and pulling it back.

Approaching crosses from wide angles expands the threat.


Tricks and flicks confuse defenders:

Step Over – Stepping over the ball and exiting the other way.

Scissors – Hopping over the ball repeatedly to disorient.

Maradona – Putting one foot on top of the ball and turning using the bottom foot.

Cruyff – Feinting a pass one way before pulling the ball behind your planted leg the opposite way.

Elastico – Rolling your foot over the ball to sharply cut direction.

Rabona – Kicking the ball behind your other leg for dramatic shots or passes.

Creativity and deception wrong-foot opponents.


Strategic concepts include:

Counter Attack – Quickly transitioning to attack after regaining possession.

Pressing – Aggressively challenging the ball carrier high up the field.

Offside Trap – Coordinated stepping to catch opponents offside.

Overlap – Having wingbacks push upfield past the winger.

Fake Run – Pretending to make a run before going in a deceptive direction.

Tactics maximize strengths against a particular opponent.

Key Football Terms by Position

Position-specific language describes roles and expectations:

Forward – Stretching the defense. Making runs off the shoulder. Advanced target forward.

Midfielder – Controlling tempo. Distributing through the middle. Box-to-box runner. Playmaker.

Winger – Providing width. Beating defenders one-on-one. Crossing into the box. Cutting inside.

Fullback – Bombing forward as wingbacks. Overlapping runs around the winger. Providing defensive cover.

Center Back – Anchoring the defense. Keeping possession simple. Clearing danger. Organizing the backline.

Frequently Asked Questions About Football Terms

Where did the terms for football skills and tactics originate?

Most derive from English vocabulary. Some originate from player names who invented skills. Others are borrowed from languages of football powerhouse nations.

Why do football terms not perfectly translate across languages?

Different football cultures coined localized words. Direct translations often lose nuances. Football vocabulary evolves uniquely across each language.

What are some classic tactics named after legendary managers?

The Catenaccio defensive system. Total Football by Rinus Michels. Tiki-Taka by Pep Guardiola. Gegenpressing by Jurgen Klopp.

How has football language changed over time?

Some old terms like inside-right faded away. New phrases like the false 9 or inverted winger emerged. Advancing tactics drive language innovations.

What are the best ways for newer fans to learn football vocabulary?

Reading glossaries, playing football video games, listening to coach and player interviews, studying tactics boards, and watching matches actively noting terms used.

Why do certain football words not translate perfectly into other sports?

Unique details like offside, nil-nil draw, attacking third or dummy transfer awkwardly. Football vocabulary is tailored extensively to the game’s specific nuances.

How can knowing football terms help me better understand tactics and strategy?

The ability to recognize a striker being played through on goal or a keeper coming off his line implies deeper comprehension of spacing, decision-making, and positional awareness.

What resources would you recommend for learning more advanced football language?

There are football dictionary books, coaching curriculum guides, YouTube analyst channels, podcasts, and websites dedicated to the nuanced terminology and tactical concepts within the game.

The vocabulary of football reveals insights about key technical skills and strategic philosophies. Mastering this specialized language allows fans and players to gain a deeper appreciation of the game’s intricacies and develop their abilities. Learn football’s dialect, and unlock a new dimension of the beautiful game.


Categories: Football


  • Tom Eddy

    Tom Eddy is the founder and CEO of Poll Position, a leading sports news and opinion website. Eddy founded Poll Position driven by a vision of creating an innovative digital media brand focused exclusively on sports journalism. Under Eddy's leadership, Poll Position has grown from a solo blog into one of the most visited online destinations for sports coverage.


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