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Gridiron and Other Sports Field Types

May 1, 2019

Sports aren’t just played on a simple “field” — they’re contested on all sorts of surfaces and terrains. Here are the origins behind a few of them.

sports field names

GRIDIRON

It’s often used as a synonym for football — as in the “American” style, as played in the NFL, not soccer. It was actually first used decades ago to describe a number of different non-soccer football games (such as American football and Canadian football) derived to differentiate all of them from soccer. Among the differences: passes, field goals, and hard hits. One another one: Until the 1920s or so, the field was usually marked in a grid pattern with lines going both ways, resembling a gridiron, a metal grill used to cook over an open flame. 

PITCH

In the U.S., soccer fields have been usually called, well, fields, because the only difference between a field and a soccer field is a couple of goals set up. But as soccer becomes more popular in the U.S., some European terms associated with the sport have taken route. For example, pro franchises are called “clubs” rather than teams, and the playing surface might be referred to in the British parlance of “pitch.” That comes from the previously mentioned act of installing goals, too. Pitching a tent involves shoving poles into the ground, and pitching a soccer course involves shoving poles into the ground, too. A pitched thing thus becomes a pitch.

RINK

Lots of different ice-based sports, particularly hockey, figure skating, and curling, are contested on an ice rink. The word was initially used to refer to an icy surface used for curling, and when hockey took off in popularity, hockey-only icy places retained the word rink. It’s actually from a Scottish dialect which means, simply, “course.”

COURT

Basketball is primarily played inside, on a surface called a court. Oddly, that word used to refer to outdoor playing fields. It comes from the Latin cohors, which means “yard.”

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