Soccer is an abbreviation for Association Football. The Football Association was formed in London in October 1863 when representatives of eleven clubs and schools met in an attempt to standardize the rules of the game. One of the rules prohibited the carrying of the ball, a rule that would lead to the Rugby-oriented clubs leaving the Association several months later. The name Association Football was coined to distinguish it from Rugby. From the 1873 Football Annual:

To play with the feet is the main object of Association Football. Hands should not, and must not be used.

Within a few decades the clipping of association began to appear. From a 21 February 1889 letter by Ernest C. Dowson:

I absolutely decline to see socca’ matches.

And from the Lock To Lock Times of 24 October 1891:

A sterling player, and has the best interest of the “socker” game at heart.

And the modern spelling appears in the November 1895 issue of 19th Century:

When the boat-race, sports, and “soccer” are in most men’s minds.

So while soccer is commonly used in North America as the name for the sport, the name did not originate on this side of the Atlantic.

(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)

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