Learn English – What determines whether a sporting event is a game, match, contest, or something else


There are many sports and other events that are contested, but why are some contests called matches, like tennis match, golf match, and soccer match, and some contests called a game, like baseball game and football game? It's not a baseball match, or a tennis game, so is there a rule of English that differentiates a match from a game?.

Best Answer

"Match" sports tend to be the ones that originated in the UK or other Commonwealth countries. Consider:

  • baseball - "game" - originated in the US
  • football (American) - "game" - originated in the US
  • golf - "match" - originated in the UK
  • basketball - "game" - originated in the US
  • cricket - "match" - originated in the UK
  • boxing (modern) - "match" - originated in the UK
  • tennis - "match" - originated in the UK

The sport where players kick a round ball around a field is a bit of a special case: it's a football match in the UK, but a soccer game in the US. Since the US didn't import the name, apparently it didn't import the "match" terminology either, and the homegrown "game" tradition got applied to it.

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