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American Football Terminology List

'In Terms of American Football: You Have Reached the End Zone'

AMERICAN FOOTBALL TERMS: A concise list of terminologies of American Football. You will find 100s of American Football terms and definitions used by players and officials, all listed from A to Z.

American Football teams and match referees can use this vocabulary of American Football terminologies.

The titles and common match rulings will also help spectators and sports fans.

The official American Football rules and regulations is a good place to start if you are learning to play.

This American Football glossary of keywords covers the advanced lingo and sports terms related to the game.

Shoot through to the most common American Football terminology by clicking the alphabetic facility below. Or, take a timeout and sharpen your knowledge and understanding of the game.

This comprehensive list of American Football terms and definitions continues to grow. Check in often for more information associated to American Football playing techniques and match-winning strategies.

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NFL TERMS A-Z: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A - Armour

American Football armour and under armour refers to the body protective equipment worn by football players in a gridiron game.

The minimum armoury should include a helmet, shoulder pads, thigh and knee pads, gloves, shoes, and compression shorts (similar to a jockstrap).

B - Backfield

The group of offensive players — the running backs and quarterback — who line up behind the line of scrimmage.

C - Cleats (shoe studs)

In American Football terminology the word 'cleats' refers to shoes which feature protrusions on the sole of the shoe.

Cleats are an external attachment to a shoe which provides extra traction for players especially on a slippery surface.

D - Down

A period of action that starts when the ball is put into play and ends when the ball is ruled dead (meaning the play is completed). The offense gets four downs to advance the ball 10 yards.

If it fails to do so, it must surrender the ball to the opponent, usually by punting on the fourth down.


The series of plays when the offense has the football, until it punts or scores and the other team gets possession of the ball.

E - End Zone

A 10-yard-long area at each end of the field. You score a touchdown when you enter the end zone in control of the football. If you're tackled in your own end zone while in possession of the football, the other team gets a safety.


American Football has one of the highest rates of injury. You need lots of bulky padding equipment to play the game safely.

Extra Point

A kick, worth one point, that's typically attempted after every touchdown (it's also known as the point after touchdown, or PAT).

The ball is placed on either the 2-yard line (in NFL rules) or the 3-yard line (in college and high school) and is generally kicked from inside the 10-yard line after being snapped to the holder. It must sail between the uprights and above the crossbar of the goalpost to be considered good.

F - Fair Catch

When the player returning a punt waves his extended arm from side to side over his head. After signaling for a fair catch, a player can't run with the ball, and those attempting to tackle him can't touch him.

Field Goal

A kick, worth three points, that can be attempted from anywhere on the field but is usually attempted within 40 yards of the goalpost. Like an extra point, a kick must sail above the crossbar and between the uprights of the goalpost to be ruled good.


The act of losing possession of the ball while running with it or being tackled. Members of the offense and defense can recover a fumble. If the defense recovers the fumble, the fumble is called a turnover.

G - Gloves

American Football Terminology List used by Players and OfficialsSome receivers wear gloves to aid catching the football ball. They find it easier to grip the ball with gloves on especially in cold weather.

Lineman gloves usually have thicker padding to protect the different parts of the hand.

H - Handoff

The act of giving the ball to another player. Handoffs usually occur between the quarterback and a running back.

Hash Marks

The lines on the center of the field that signify 1 yard on the field.

Before every play, the ball is spotted between the hash marks or on the hash marks, depending on where the ball carrier was tackled on the preceding play.


When the 11 players on the field come together to discuss strategy between plays. On offense, the quarterback relays the plays in the huddle.

I - Incompletion

A forward pass that falls to the ground because no receiver could catch it, or a pass that a receiver dropped or caught out of bounds.


A pass that's caught by a defensive player, ending the offense's possession of the ball.

J - J

K - Kickoff

A free kick (meaning the receiving team can't make an attempt to block it) that puts the ball into play. A kickoff is used at the start of the first and third quarters and after every touchdown and successful field goal.

L - Line of Scrimmage

An imaginary line that extends from where the football is placed at the end of a play to both sides of the field. Neither the offense nor the defense can cross the line until the football is put in play again.

M - M

N - NFL Rules

A National Football League overview is the ideal introduction and first step to learn about the basic game references and player tactics taken from the 100 page NFL rule book.

O - Offensive Line

The human wall of five men who block for and protect the quarterback and ball carriers. Every line has a center (who snaps the ball), two guards, and two tackles.

P - Punt

A kick made when a player drops the ball and kicks it while it falls toward his foot. A punt is usually made on a fourth down when the offense must surrender possession of the ball to the defense because it couldn't advance 10 yards.

R - Red Zone

In a glossary of American Football words 'red zone' refers to an unofficial area from the 20-yard line to the opponent's goal line. Holding an opponent to a field goal in this area is considered a moral victory for the defense.


The act of receiving a kick or punt and running toward the opponent's goal line with the intent of scoring or gaining significant yardage.


To advance the ball by running, not passing. A running back is sometimes called a rusher.

S - Sack

When a defensive player tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of yardage.


A score, worth two points, that the defense earns by tackling an offensive player in possession of the ball in his own end zone.


The four defensive players who defend against the pass and line up behind the linebackers and wide on the corners of the field opposite the receivers.

Shoulder Pads

Shoulder pads come in two types, cantilevered and flat. Cantilevered pads are larger for players on the offensive and defensive line and linebackers who receive more direct collisions.

Flat pads are used mainly by quarterbacks and receivers, as they are smaller and restrict movement less.


The action in which the ball is hiked (tossed between the legs) by the center to the quarterback, to the holder on a kick attempt, or to the punter. When the snap occurs, the ball is officially in play and action begins.

Special Teams

The 22 players who are on the field during kicks and punts. These units have special players who return punts and kicks, as well as players who are experts at covering kicks and punts.

T - Touchdown

According to the official rules and regulations of American Football a score, worth six points, occurs when a player in possession of the ball crosses the plane of the opponent's goal line, when a player catches the ball while in the opponent's end zone, or when a defensive player recovers a loose ball in the opponent's end zone.

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American Football Terminologies used by Players and Officials in the United Kingdom