boot (footwear) in non-US English

Gavril

Senior Member
English, USA
In US English, the word boot normally refers to footwear that reaches above the ankle: anything lower than that is just a "shoe".

In British English, boot seems to have a broader meaning -- for example, I recall seeing it used to refer to soccer shoes. Is any athletic shoe called a "boot" in BE (or in other non-North American forms of English)?
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I believe there is some small BrE/AmE variation here. Football boots, certainly - it is normal to talk of football boots, and in fact football shoes sounds wrong. Ordinary old-fashioned men's shoes can be called boots because they reach to a certain point just up the ankle, and we polish them with shoe polish or boot polish. Personally I would say I wear shoes rather than boots, and I think 'boot' for a shoe that just covers the ankles might be falling out of use.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In US English, the word boot normally refers to footwear that reaches above the ankle: anything lower than that is just a "shoe"
    Same here.
    It would be used for football boots ('footy boots' ;)) but not much else that doesn't fit the above generalisation. We don't say "golf boots" but "golf shoes", and sporty style shoes (Australia: runners, America: sneakers, Britain: trainers) are not called boots. For rugby, they would be called boots. I think it might be the fact they have studs in them, as what are called boots (for football and rugby) both have studs, and no other sports shoe is called a 'boot' that doesn't have them, though golfing shoes have a nail-like thing, that wouldn't count in this case.

    ^^ Just my opinion.
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Hey Alex,

    Do you ever call them cleats (the shoes you wear for football/soccer)?

    Anyway, Separated by a Common Language, one of my favorite linguistics blogs, covered this in September. Here's the entry: http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/2011/09/shoes.html

    A small study... on Texan versus British concepts of BOOT [showed] that even though both groups considered the same range of things to be boots, there was variation in their ideas of what constituted a central member of the BOOT category, with the Texan prototype extending further above the ankle than the British one.
     
    Last edited:

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In US English, the word boot normally refers to footwear that reaches above the ankle: anything lower than that is just a "shoe".

    In British English, boot seems to have a broader meaning -- for example, I recall seeing it used to refer to soccer shoes. Is any athletic shoe called a "boot" in BE (or in other non-North American forms of English)?
    Once upon a time, long, long ago, the appropriate footwear for soccer reached above the ankle. Hence they were football boots.
    The style changed. The term didn't.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I just tried Googling "soccer boots" and "soccer shoes" (assuming that the word "soccer" makes a webpage more likely to be from the US). Google claims about 2 million hits for the first and about 10 million for the second, so maybe there's more of an overlap than I thought between US and British English in this case.

    We also use the term "soccer cleats" in the US, meaning soccer shoes fitted with cleats. Does British English use "football cleats" the same way, or do you only use "cleats" to refer to the spikes/studs on the bottom of the shoes?

    (Edit: It looks like Ribran beat me to the punch on the "cleats" question.)
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I've never heard the word cleats before, I don't think...

    Edit:
    Football boots, called cleats or soccer shoes in North America, are an item of footwear worn when playing association football. Those designed for grasspitches have studs on the bottom to aid grip. Modern "boots" are not truly boots in that they do not cover the ankle.
    I think this implies a North American usage, but wouldn't surprise me now that many Brits know what it means.
    I don't think there are many British regulars who are around my age on this forum, so I think a lot of what I say seems like wild-claims with nobody to support them. Either way I'm always happy to learn a new word :D
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Once upon a time, long, long ago, the appropriate footwear for soccer reached above the ankle. Hence they were football boots.
    The style changed. The term didn't.
    At boarding school in England, I played "rugger" (the word was used to describe "Rugby Football" and its form was the inspiration for the word Soccer, Association football) in that long ago time and the footwear came over my ankles and were called boots. The things sticking out of the bottom were called studs. For these sports shoes and cleats are AmE terms.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The things sticking out of the bottom were called studs. For these sports shoes and cleats are AmE terms.
    Aha, that makes sense now! :)
    And, I'd never even considered the origin of the word 'soccer', but that's so interesting to know, from 'association' in 'association football', that'll be my fact of the day today.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Aha, that makes sense now! :)
    And, I'd never even considered the origin of the word 'soccer', but that's so interesting to know, from 'association' in 'association football', that'll be my fact of the day today.
    Staying with the topic of different terms for sports things in AmE and BrE, it surprises many from both camps that the word soccer was coined and promoted in England over a century ago :D
     
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