Why Is a Soccer Field Called a Pitch?

wondrous memeI recently said to the parent of one of my soccer players, “See you on the pitch.”  She looked at me like I’d suggested we’d play our game on the moon.

Soccer geeks often refer to the playing field as “the pitch,” and I, a lover of all things soccer, would like to explain the term. Soccer season is wrapping up, so I promise this will be the last soccerly word nerd word for a while.

To learn more interesting words, visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for her Wondrous Words Wednesday meme. Click through the links and add your own post!

After I explored the etymology of hat trick and nutmeg, my friend Jean wanted to learn more about the origin of “pitch”. She consulted Shane, a soccer enthusiast from England, and I consulted “On the Pitch”, a website dedicated to all things youth soccer. Here’s what we found.

For centuries, the verb “pitch” meant “to fit firmly in place”, like pitching stakes into the ground for a tent. (e.g. “pitching a tent”). It comes from the Middle English pichen, meaning to drive or fix firmly.  Since the end of the 17th century, the process of pitching stumps into the ground to set up a game of cricket has been called “pitching the stumps”.  By the late 1800s, people started using “pitch” as a noun to describe a playing area. By 1900, pitch was used specifically for a football (or soccer) playing area.

Pitch = playing area
Pitch = playing area

In England, the term “field” usually refers to an open space, as in a pasture or grassy area, not a playing area.

Thanks Jean and Shane for your help!

Word Nerd Workout

Pitch has a ton of meanings. Can you share some others?

Thanks for getting nerdy with me today!

Julia

Julia Tomiak

I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.

10 Comments

  1. I am not familiar with soccer terms at all. Lots of kids playing soccer in our town these days, but when mine were growing up only volleyball and baseball were available. Hence, I have nerdy kids, not athletic ones! 🙂

  2. Cool! I didn’t know this. We almost bought tickets for the women’s world cup in Canada this year – only three hours from NH. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be; I’d love to see Abby Wombach on the pitch!

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