Football Lingo for Dummies – Your Football Dictionary

I am aware that there are loads of footballing terms and lingo, that not everybody understands. Maybe you have read one of my posts, and something I said made no sense to you. Or maybe you were talking to someone, and the same thing happened.

Well, in this post I am going to attempt to create a list of some of these phrases, so that you guys can read it, add to it, and hopefully learn a little more about the world of football!

The format for this post is going to be a little different to my previous ones, this one is just going to be a long list of football terms which maybe, aren’t so self-explanatory.

With each of these terms I am going to give a description of what they mean, as well as including a typical sentence the phrase or word could be used in.  Hopefully this is going to help you guys out!

I also may miss or forget some lingo, in this case, I want you to tell me about the ones I missed in the comments, and I will add them to my post so hopefully we create an amazing, extensive list of football lingo for dummies.

You can bookmark this page, keep coming back to it, and referring to it until you feel that you are confident enough to have a full blown conversation with a football enthusiast, without getting totally confused…Good Luck!

And the list begins…

Through on goal – a term used when a player has a free run at goal, with no defenders in front of them, just the goalkeeper to beat.

‘If he beats this last defender, he’s through on goal!’

Through ball – used to describe a pass which is played in front of someone, for the player to run onto.

‘They could have a scoring opportunity with one simple through ball’

Skied it – used to describe a shot which went above the crossbar, usually by a considerable amount.

‘That was such a good chance, but he’s skied it’

Bicycle kick – An acrobatic move in football where the player jumps in the air, onto their back, whilst they are in the air they extend their leg to kick the ball over their head. (Otherwise known as an overhead kick).

‘That is an unbelievable bicycle kick to win the game for united’

Diego Costa demonstrating a bicycle kick, just for you 🙂

Fifty-fifty – When two players are going towards a loose ball, and they both have an equal chance of winning it for their team.

‘He’s won the fifty-fifty’

Screamer – This term is used to describe a very good goal, usually the goal was a powerful long shot.

‘What an absolute screamer, how’s he scored from there?’

1 on 1 – Either one attacker is trying to take the ball around a single defender. Or an attacker is trying to score against a goalkeeper from close range, with no defenders to beat.

‘He’s taken it round 3 men, now he’s 1 on 1 with the goalkeeper’

Iniesta taking on a defender 1 on 1

Switch the play – When switching the play, you are playing a long pass horizontally across the pitch, from left to right or vice versa.

‘They have a man open on the other side of the pitch so they can switch the play’

Back heel – when a pass (or less likely, a shot) is made with the back of the player’s heel, often to pass directly behind them.

‘There is a player open if he can back heel it to them’

Assist – the pass that happened in order for the goal scored to score the goal. It is the last pass that happened before the goal.

‘He has crossed the ball straight to his head, what a great assist’

Dribble- when a player runs with the ball at their feet.

‘That was a brilliant dribble, he got round 3 defenders’

Messi is one of the best at dribbling

Kick off – This is where the game begins, or restarts in the centre of the pitch, on the centre spot. It gets the game underway either at the start of the game, the start of the second half, or after a goal is scored.It is also used to describe when a game starts.

‘I wonder what they have planned after they take kick-off’


‘What time is kick-off tonight mate?’

Far post – if a shot is being taken from an angle, it is the post furthest away from the attacker. (Check image caption below)

‘He slotted the ball away in the far post’

Near post- if a shot is being taken from a slight angle, it is the post closest to the attacker. (Check image caption below)

‘The goalkeeper left his near post wide open’

Far/Near post
Everywhere between the goalkeeper and the left post is far post, everywhere between the goalkeeper and the right post is near post. (In this example)

Man-on – this term is usually used by the players in a game to alert a player who has the ball, that there is a defender coming to tackle him. It lets them know they have limited time before they pass or move.

‘Man on!’  (You don’t really use this one in a sentence)

Dive – more popular now in modern football, used to describe a player who has fallen to the ground with little or no contact from a defender, in order to try and win a free kick or penalty. (This is cheating but players continue to get away with it sadly, don’t do this!)

‘That is a shocking dive, how has the ref not noticed that’

Give and go / One Two – These two terms mean the same thing,where a player passes a ball, moves to another position for the ball to be passed back to him.

‘That is a great one two, he’s now through on goal’

Tiki-taka – This is a style of football, originally made famous by the Spanish which includes short passes through various channels, and moving the ball quickly with just one or two touches.

‘This is brilliant play, demonstrating tiki-taka perfectly’

Volley – A term used to describe the striking of a ball whilst it is in the air.

‘How has he scored that on the volley?’

Route one – Typically used when a team is losing the game, a style of play where the team just boots the ball up the pitch, for their players to try and win the header and get a chance.

‘They have resorted to route one, in hopes of getting an equalising goal’

Keepy ups / Keepy Uppies – when you keep the ball up off the ground by juggling it up and down with your feet.

‘I just did 101 keepy ups’

Keepy ups
 A Football freestyler performing keepy ups.

Brace – when a player scored 2 goals.

‘Smith has scored a brace’

Hatrick – when a player scores 3 goals.

‘If he can score a hatrick today, he will equal Bloggs record’

Debut – a player’s first game for a team.

Smith is making his international debut today’

Back pass – used to describe when a player passes the ball back to their goalkeeper, if the goalkeeper then picks the ball up it is a foul.

‘That was a risky back pass, but they got away with it.’

Comment Below!

I’m sure a few more will come to my head, and when they do, I will make a note of it and add them to this list. There really are tonnes of phrases in football so I’m sure this list will be never ending.

Like I said at the beginning, if you think of any, let me know. Also, if you have heard any terms and are not quite sure what they mean,I am happy to be your footballing dictionary too! Just leave em’ in the comments!

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10 Replies to “Football Lingo for Dummies – Your Football Dictionary”

  1. Well I will say that the lingo you’ve got here is a lot cleaner that the lingo we used to use in my playing days (thankfully!)  🙂

    I think you’ve just about covered it all here, I’m thinking back to incidents from the Liverpool Roma game the other night, and nothing pops to mind other than “he took one for the team” which roughly translates as “he pulled off a dirty foul there because the opposition player was in on goal” (usually results in a yellow or red card). 

    1. Yeah, I sort of felt I had to keep it clean, although I could do completely new post on all the not so clean phrases!

      Yeah that is a good one, I have had to do that a few times when I play football, not something i’m proud of! All part of the game though 🙂

      Thanks for the comment Chris.

  2. Hi, really great article as i most say am a big fan of football, I enjoyed playing it but as to some of the phrase you mentioned I had no idea what they meant even watching world cup and hearing the commentator use them, thanks I have learn so much phrases from your article an am sure others will too good job.

  3. Good list.  I got them all accept brace.  I had to think about a few as I haven’t played in quite a few years.

    I guess there was another one I should have gotten. That one is ‘skied it’.  DOH!

    Forgive me for correcting you on one, but isn’t a dive commonly called a Neymar?  LOL.

    1. Thank you for the comment, and well done for getting almost all of them.

      Yeah, I have put the ball over the fence enough times for ‘skied it’ to be one of the first on the list, that’s for sure!

      Yes, you are right, I better go and change that to the Neymar! lol 🙂

  4. You got a nice post here you cover pretty much all the information we need to know when we watching soccer, personally I played all my life and everything you mention in your post is kinda the rules of the fan, some people think the one sport is boring, but is because they don’t know the rules or why the players are doing or for what reason..

    thank you for this information 

    1. Yeah I totally agree, the game becomes so much more interesting when you understand all the rules- because you then start to understand the tactics and the mental side of the game too!

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

  5. Great article. I am still very much an active fan and non-league player. This is especially good to come to terms with football lingos. I missed keepy ups (i know it by a differnet lingo – juggling), i also missed route one (this is the first time i”m hearing about that).

    The only one i can come up with that wasn’t mentioned in your article is an “aerial ball”. Nice one and thanks for sharing.

    1. Awesome, good to hear from a fellow football player and lover. 

      Yeah juggling is a common one for the same thing too.

      And yeah thats a good one, thanks 🙂

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