a. A game played by two teams of 11 players each on a rectangular, 100-yard-long field with goal lines and goalposts at either end, the object being to gain possession of a ball and advance it in running or passing plays across the opponent's goal line or kick it through the air between the opponent's goalposts.
b. The inflated oval ball, slightly pointed at both ends, that is used in this game.
2. Chiefly British
c. The ball used in soccer or rugby.
3. Informal A problem or issue that is discussed among groups or persons without being settled: The issue of tax reform became a political football.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.