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In a computer science course, our professor was explaining the idea of object oriented programming using the analogy of soccer. While reading the Wikipedia article on Association Football, it said this:

Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball

If ball is connotated with a round, spherical object, is saying "spherical ball" redundant?

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10  
Have you seen an American football? They aren't spherical, but are called balls. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Sep 10 '12 at 20:20
    
Football =/= ball. –  thinly veiled question mark Sep 10 '12 at 20:21
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Have you ever seen a masked ball? Few of those are ever perfectly spherical. –  Robusto Sep 10 '12 at 20:54
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I know Robusto is aware of that, but as a courtesy to future readers who might not be, the masked ball has a completely different etymology (compare Spanish bailar, "to dance"). The two balls just happen to be spelled the same in contemporary English. –  RegDwigнt Sep 10 '12 at 21:05
    
General Reference/Not Constructive. Here are 113,000 round balls, and 40,000 spherical ones. –  FumbleFingers Sep 10 '12 at 23:51

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

No, it's clearly not redundant. Compare it with this.

Rugby football, more commonly known as rugby or rugby union, is a sport played between two teams of fifteen players with a non-spherical ball.

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Or two teams of 13 players for proper rugby –  mgb Sep 11 '12 at 14:32
    
@mgb LOL, if you insist. –  user16269 Sep 11 '12 at 18:13

No, it is not redundant.

Although the standard shape conveyed by the word ball is indeed a sphere, the things we call balls have enough variance for the accepted definition to be more lenient than just “sphere”. The NOAD’s first entry for ball defines it as “a solid or hollow sphere or ovoid”. Dictionary.com calls it “a spherical or approximately spherical body or shape”. Merriam-Webster says “a round or roundish body or mass”.

Consequently, in a context such as football where the ball does have varying shapes, it is not redundant to specify that it is a spherical ball and not “an ovoid”, “approximately spherical”, “roundish” or otherwise.

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@tchrist: The only thing not true here is that the first definition is miscited. (NOAD's first entry reads exactly as transcribed by the answerer, i.e., a solid or hollow sphere or ovoid.) –  J.R. Sep 11 '12 at 2:14
    
Thanks @J.R., I did indeed mean the NOAD. I have changed the answer to reflect this. –  advait Sep 11 '12 at 9:17

I would say it is and isn't. In proper english going by dictionary definitions, a ball implies a spherical body or shape.

In "spoken" or common spoken language there are footballs, rugby balls, etc. You could argue that this is a stretch or evolution of the term ball to mean the passable or focused upon equipment of a game, usually somewhat round in shape. Even a badminton's shuttlecock and hockey pucks have circular shapes in their design.

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ball (OxfordDictionaries)
1. A solid or hollow sphere or ovoid, esp. one that is kicked, thrown, or hit in a game.

sphere (OxfordDictionaries)
1a round solid figure, or its surface, with every point on its surface equidistant from its centre.

Is saying "spherical ball" redundant? No.

In reference to the context, some footballs are spherical, some are not.

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