Football Glossary

Understanding Basic Terms of the Gridiron Game

Super Bowl 51
Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots scores a two point conversion late in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Whether you're new to football or a longtime fan of the game, this glossary of common -- and not so common -- football terms can be useful for just about anyone in need of a quick reference or a tool to learn the basics. This list is an essential part of Football 101: It's far from comprehensive, but whether you want to know the difference between an audible and an illegal formation, or even a PAT and a sack, this glossary will provide a good start.

Audible to Draft

Football terms, of course, do not naturally fall into groups based on the letters they start with. But, neither do words in the dictionary. As in a dictionary, these football terms are organized into alphabetic groups -- using beginning and ending guide words for each section -- to make it easier to look up terms. Each term links to a detailed explanation.





End Zone to Holding

In football, the phrase "the end zone" refers to a 10-yard section stretching the width of the field at both ends of the playing field. The whole point of the game is to get the ball into the end zone -- preferably by scoring a touchdown -- while your team is on offense, as the opposing team does everything it can to prevent that from happening.





Illegal Formation to Off-Tackle

An illegal formation is a penalty that is called against the offense for failing to line up prior to the snap according to specific guidelines. Professional football players are often paid millions to play the game -- but you'd be surprised how often this happens. Indeed, the New England Patriots -- and their wily coach Bill Belichick -- make a habit of trying to lure their opponents into lining up in illegal formations.







Pass Rush to Running Into the Kicker

A pass rush is an attempt by defensive players to get to the quarterback so they can tackle him before he can successfully get off a pass attempt. The goal of a pass rush is to either sack the quarterback for a loss of yards or force him into making a mistake. It's an important term, as are the other football-related words in this section.



Sack to Sweep

A sack occurs when the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage before he can throw a forward pass. Anytime a defenseman can sack a quarterback, it's considered a big win for the opposing team. Indeed, the NFL keeps a separate statistic to track how many sacks a defensive player racks up in a game, a season and even a career.


TD to Wishbone Formation

The entire object of the game of football is to outscore your opponent by advancing the football into their end zone to score as many touchdowns as possible while holding the other squad to as few as possible. There are other ways of scoring, but a touchdown is usually the prime objective.