Where Did the Term “Gridiron” For a Football Field Come From and What Does the Word Mean?

The word football first described a game involving two teams and an inflated animal bladder in 1486.

The game evolved several times before North Americans introduced new rules, such as three chances to advance the ball five yards, that led to white lines being painted on the field.

From the stands, these lines gave the field the appearance of broiled meat from the metal grating of a griddle or “gridiron,” and so that’s what they called it.

And that’s why a football field is called a “gridiron”.

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  • Len Probst

    Back in the early 1900’s football fields had lines like they do today but also lines every 5 yards parallel to and between the side lines forming a grid (boxes). That’s when they first started calling the field a gridiron. Today’s fields aren’t actually gridirons anymore because they removed the lines parallel to the sidelines. Some say they are called gridirons today because they resemble a cooking griddle, as you have said. It can’t be both.