Football Slang Explained: Touchdowns, Penalties, and More

Football Slang Explained: Touchdowns, Penalties, and More

If you’re new to the world of football or just want to brush up on your knowledge of the game, understanding the slang used on and off the field can be a game-changer. In this comprehensive guide, we will break down the most common football slang terms, from touchdowns to penalties and everything in between. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, this article will equip you with the vocabulary you need to fully comprehend the exciting world of football. So, let’s dive in and explore the fascinating language of the gridiron!


Definition of a touchdown

A touchdown is a term used in football to describe a scoring play where a player successfully advances the ball into the opponent’s end zone, resulting in the team earning six points. It is one of the most exciting and crucial moments in a football game.

Scoring a touchdown

To score a touchdown, a player must possess the ball and cross the goal line into the opponent’s end zone, either by running with the ball or catching a pass thrown by a teammate. The player must have complete control and possession of the ball while crossing the goal line for the play to be considered a touchdown.

Scoring a touchdown requires not only skill but also strategic teamwork. Players often rely on their speed, agility, and strength to evade opposing defenders and reach the end zone, contributing to the overall success of their team.

Types of touchdowns

In football, there are various types of touchdowns that can occur during a game. Here are some common types:

  1. Rushing touchdowns: These occur when a player runs with the ball and successfully reaches the end zone. It showcases the player’s ability to navigate through the opposing team’s defense and highlights their running skills.

  2. Receiving touchdowns: These happen when a player catches a pass from a teammate and crosses the goal line. It demonstrates the receiver’s ability to create separation from defenders and make crucial catches in the end zone.

  3. Special teams touchdowns: These occur when the team’s special teams unit, such as the kick returner or punt returner, successfully returns a kickoff or punt to the opponent’s end zone. It requires exceptional speed, vision, and maneuvering skills to outmaneuver the kicking team and reach the end zone.

  4. Defensive touchdowns: These happen when a defensive player intercepts a pass or recovers a fumble and returns it to the opponent’s end zone. It showcases the defensive player’s ability to read the game, make impactful plays, and potentially turn the tide of the game.

Each type of touchdown adds excitement and momentum to the game, providing opportunities for teams to gain an advantage and ultimately secure victory.


Common penalties in football

In the game of football, penalties play a significant role in maintaining fairness and ensuring players adhere to the rules. Understanding the different penalties can help both players and fans comprehend the consequences of certain actions on the field. Here are some common penalties you might come across during a football match:

  • Holding: Holding occurs when a player impedes the progress of an opponent by grabbing onto their jersey or body. It is a serious offense as it gives an unfair advantage to the holding player’s team.
  • False start: A false start penalty is called when an offensive player moves before the ball is snapped. This penalty is typically incurred due to a lack of discipline or miscommunication among the offensive players.
  • Pass interference: Pass interference is called when a defensive player hinders the receiver’s ability to catch a pass. It can occur by pushing, holding, or obstructing the receiver’s path, preventing them from making a fair attempt to catch the ball.
  • Offensive holding: Similar to holding, offensive holding occurs when an offensive player impedes an opponent’s progress. However, this penalty is specifically called against an offensive player during a running or passing play.
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct: Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are called for actions that are deemed disrespectful, unfair, or against the spirit of the game. These can include excessive celebration, taunting, or using abusive language towards opponents or officials.

Offensive penalties

In football, offensive penalties are called against the team in possession of the ball. These penalties can have a significant impact on the team’s progress and can result in loss of yardage or loss of downs. Here are a few common offensive penalties that players need to be cautious about:

  • Illegal motion: This penalty occurs when an offensive player makes a sudden movement before the snap, which can confuse the defense. It includes actions such as a player starting their motion towards the line of scrimmage before the snap or multiple players moving simultaneously.
  • Delay of game: A delay of game penalty is called when the offense fails to start a play within the designated time limit. This can happen due to a lack of preparedness, confusion, or an attempt to disrupt the defense’s strategy.
  • Illegal block: Offensive players must adhere to specific rules while blocking to ensure fair play. An illegal block penalty is called when an offensive player makes an illegal block, such as blocking from behind or below the waist, which can cause injury or unfair advantage.

Defensive penalties

Defensive penalties are called against the team not in possession of the ball. These penalties can result in automatic first downs for the offense or significant yardage gains. It is crucial for defensive players to understand and avoid these penalties to prevent giving the opposing team unnecessary advantages. Here are a few common defensive penalties:

  • Pass interference: As mentioned earlier, pass interference occurs when a defensive player hinders the receiver’s ability to catch a pass. This penalty can result in a substantial gain in yardage for the offense, often leading to a first down.
  • Offside: Offside penalties are called when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an offensive player before the ball is snapped. This penalty can result in a five-yard gain for the offense.
  • Defensive holding: Defensive holding is called when a defensive player impedes the progress of an offensive player by grabbing their jersey or body. It can result in an automatic first down for the offense.

Understanding penalties in football is essential for players, coaches, and fans alike. By familiarizing themselves with the common penalties, offensive penalties, and defensive penalties, individuals can grasp the impact of certain actions on the game’s outcome.

Other Football Slang

First down

In American football, a first down is an important milestone for the offensive team. It refers to the team’s first attempt to advance the ball towards their opponent’s end zone. To achieve a first down, the offense must move the ball a minimum of ten yards within a series of four downs or plays. Successfully gaining a first down allows the offense to earn a new set of downs and continue their drive towards scoring a touchdown.

Field goal

A field goal is a scoring play in football that awards the offensive team three points. It occurs when the team is unable to score a touchdown but manages to kick the ball through their opponent’s goalposts. Typically attempted on fourth down, a field goal requires the kicker to accurately kick the ball over the crossbar and between the goalposts. It is a common strategy when the offense is close enough to the opponent’s end zone but unable to secure a touchdown.


An interception is a defensive play that occurs when a player from the defending team catches a pass intended for an offensive player. It is a valuable turnover for the defense as it abruptly halts the offense’s progress and grants possession of the ball to the defending team. Interceptions often result from a defender reading the quarterback’s intentions and successfully positioning themselves to intercept the pass. The defending team can then take over possession and launch their own offensive drive.

In conclusion, understanding football slang is crucial for both avid fans and casual viewers alike. By decoding the meaning behind terms such as touchdowns, penalties, and more, individuals can enhance their enjoyment of the game and fully immerse themselves in the excitement on the field. Whether it’s cheering for a successful touchdown or commiserating over a penalty call, having a grasp of football slang adds an extra layer of comprehension and engagement to the sport. So, next time you tune in to a football game, keep this guide handy and impress your friends with your newfound knowledge of the game’s intricate language.