How Well Do You Know Football Slang?

By: John Miller
Estimated Completion Time
3 min
How Well Do You Know Football Slang?
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

From “audibles" to “zebras,” American football is filled with lingo and slang used as creative shorthand for every aspect of the game. Some of these terms are pretty easy to figure out — others, like “onside” kick or “PAT” are totally incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t follow the sport. Do you know your football slang?

Slang isn’t mean to purposely confuse bystanders. Football is a fast-paced game that needs quick explanations, so fans, announcers and players alike all rely on the same lingo to convey the on-field action. So “false starts,” “hot routes,” and “muffed” punts are a part of the game. Do you think you can identify these sometimes weird and wacky terms, like “long snapper” and “pump fake”?

Head coaches and players use their special lingo to plan and execute plays with precision. Sports newbies who listen to a huddle would be completely baffled by the terminology — “snap count” and “weak side” mean nothing to the uninitiated. 

Are you a green rookie with no real concept of the “tuck rule,” or are you a football savant who knows every important term the game has to offer? Take our football slang quiz now and find out if you’re worthy of a head coach position or if you should just stick with cleaning the showers after a big game.

What’s a "Hail Mary"?
a pre-game prayer
a desperate, last-second pass
When a team is trailing at the end of a half, they’ll sometimes throw long desperation passes in hopes of scoring a TD. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is the king of the Hail Mary.
a long TD run

Advertisement

Which player often performs a "dropback"?
DE
QB
After a QB takes the snap, he’ll often drop back to pass. A "dropback" may be just three steps, or it may be longer depending on the play that’s been called.
WR

Advertisement

A "chip shot" refers to which aspect of the game?
kicking
A "chip shot" is a short kick. It borrows the concept of a short chip shot in the game of golf.
passing
running

Advertisement

When the defense sends extra players to try and sack the quarterback, it’s called a _____.
power punch
blitz
Defenses often "blitz" by sending extra players hurtling toward the QB. But doing so may leave them shorthanded in the secondary.
jump

Advertisement

What’s a "shotgun snap"?
when head coaches run onto the field
when Ray Lewis makes a shotgun-cocking motion during a game
when the QB takes the snap far from the line of scrimmage
QBs often stand a few steps back from the line of scrimmage to receive a long "shotgun snap." This gives them space and visibility to throw, particularly in a fast-paced attack.

Advertisement

What’s an unofficial term for the actual ball used in football?
pigskin
Because they used to be made from parts of pigs (and similiar materials), the footballs are often called "pigskins." Modern NFL footballs have a rubber bladder covered with pebbled leather.
rounder
pacifier

Advertisement

What does the "red zone" refer to?
the sidelines
the part of the field near the end zones
The "red zone" is the scoring zone — the 20 yards just before the end zones. Defenses must stiffen in the red zone or risk giving up too many points to opportunistic offenses.
the red logo on Kansas City’s home field

Advertisement

Which unit of a football team might perform the "run and shoot"?
defense
offense
The "run and shoot" is a fast-paced offense that relies heavily on the pass. QBs typically take a shotgun snap and throw as quickly as possible.
kicking unit

Advertisement

If the QB is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, he has taken a _____.
sack
When QBs are tackled behind the line of scrimmage, they are "sacked." Defensive linemen covet the chances to rack up their sack statistics.
humiliation
beating

Advertisement

What’s a slang term for the football field?
foothills
gridiron
Announcers often called the field a "gridiron," because it really does resemble the cooking appliance of the same name. And at the Dolphins’ stadium in early September, it feels just as hot.
prairie

Advertisement

What does it mean if a defensive lineman performs a "bull rush"?
He punches the offensive lineman in the guts.
He charges straight at the man in front of him.
Often, defensive linemen use fancy moves to get around offensive linemen. In a "bull rush," however, they charge straight ahead in a attempt push their man to the ground.
He makes bull horns with his fingers and stamps his feet before blitzing.

Advertisement

If a team "dinks and dunks," what are they doing?
throwing a lot of short passes
Many teams resort to "dinking and dunking," or throwing a lot of short passes. They might do this because their QB is terrible at throwing long passes or because the defensive rush is too fast for a longer QB dropback.
pretending to play basketball during a football game
throwing the ball through the field goal posts

Advertisement

If an offensive play falls apart, it is _____.
gluten-free
busted
A "busted" play is an offensive play that falls apart, either due to a lack of execution or due to disruption caused by defenders.
floppy

Advertisement

Which player might "spike" the ball?
kicker
QB
QBs "spike" the ball to stop the clock. This is a common play at the end of a quarter, giving the offense time to run more plays.
an unscrupulous athletic trainer

Advertisement

How many defensive backs are there in a "nickel" defensive scheme?
2
5
As the name implies, there are five DBs in "nickel" defense. It’s often a good way stifle an offense’s short passing game.
9

Advertisement

What’s a defining trait of a "no-huddle" offense?
Everyone screams really loudly.
No one is allowed to cuddle.
It is fast-paced.
In the "no-huddle" offense, the players don’t huddle to discuss plays. Instead, they quickly line up and execute plays in hopes of catching the defensive out of alignment.

Advertisement

If a QB changes the play at the line of scrimmage, he is performing an _____.
operation
insurrection
audible
Typically, offenses already have a play planned when they hit the line of scrimmage. But the QB can "audible," or shout out, a new play if he sees a weakness in the defense’s lineup.

Advertisement

What happens during a "scoop and score"?
Head coaches get phone numbers from cheerleaders.
Defenders recover a fumble and score a TD.
Defenders "scoop" up fumbles, and with luck, take them all the way back for TDs. It’s a "scoop and score."
Everyone gets scoops of ice cream after the game.

Advertisement

Aggressive, risk-taking QBs are often called ______.
gunslingers
In true American fashion, QBs who take risks by throwing aggressive passes are often called gunslingers. Guys like Brett Favre are gunslingers. Alex Smith is not.
morons
dirtbags

Advertisement

What happens on "Black Monday"?
Players gamble on games.
Coaches lose their jobs.
Black Monday is the day after final regular season game — it’s the day when many coaches (other club execs) lose their jobs following an unsucessful campaign.
The losing team commits ritual suicide after blowing the lead on Super Bowl Sunday.

Advertisement

If a team is creating a "max protect," what are they doing?
escorting head coaches to the locker room
adding to the offensive line
In a "max protect" scheme, backs and tight ends stay behind the line of scrimmage to provide maximum protection for the QB. This scheme is often used during obvious blitzing situations.
using felons from a maximum-security prison on defense

Advertisement

How do opposing teams "ice" a kicker before an important field goal attempt?
They call a timeout.
Before game-altering field goal attempts, many coaches will try to "ice" a kicker by calling a timeout. The idea is to make him feel the pressure of the situation ... and then miss the kick.
They throw snowballs at him.
They stare at him — icily.

Advertisement

Why would a QB perform a "hot read"?
He has a subscription to "Cosmopolitan."
He sees a blitz coming.
When QBs realize a blitz is coming, they often do a "hot read," giving up on intended receivers and instead passing to players running shorter routes.
He’s reading "50 Shades of Grey."

Advertisement

An intentional short punt is called a ______ punt.
donkey
pooch
A "pooch" punt is a short punt. The pooch punt comes in handy on a short field or when the punter is trying to keep the ball away from a dangerous return man.
caterpillar

Advertisement

Which players love the "coffin corner"?
linebackers
punters
The "coffin corner" is the corner of the field near the end zone and the sideline. Punters aim there knowing that kick returners won’t have much room to maneuever.
quarterbacks

Advertisement

What’s the "gunner’s" job?
to shoot the opposing team’s head coach
to tackle a kick returner
A gunner is a special teams player who races down field during kicks. His job is to tackle the kick returner as quickly as possible.
to sack the QB

Advertisement

Which term refers to a dangerous type of tackle?
horse collar
When tacklers grab ball carriers by the neck from behind, it’s called a "horse collar" tackle. The tackle is banned because it often causes injuries.
tiger bite
goat shocker

Advertisement

In a "flea flicker," the QB hands off the ball to a RB ... and then what a happens?
The RB tosses the ball back the QB.
The flea flicker is a trick play. The QB hands off the ball to a RB, who then tosses the ball back to the QB. Then, the QB usually throws long, far over the heads of defenders who were closing into stop a supposed run.
The RB stops to scratch his fleas.
Everyone goes home to take showers.

Advertisement

Your friend thinks he can call plays better than the head coach. He is _____.
rather stupid
a sofa referee
an armchair quarterback
Everyone thinks they know a better game plan than the coach. They are the "armchair quarterbacks," the guys who call the plays from the comfort of their couches.

Advertisement

The "wildcat" is used by which unit of a football team?
defense
offense
In recent years, some pro and college teams have used the "wildcat" offensive set. The QB lines up as a WR ... and the WR or RB will take the snap to start the play.
kicking team

Advertisement

You Got:
/30
Featured