What’s a handegg?

NOTE: This question is primarily related to the etymology of a compound noun which is not in The Dictionary.

There is a hat this year called “Handegg”, given out for a posting that reaches a score of +7. But here’s the problem: the word handegg does not occur in the Oxford English Dictionary! Neither does hand-egg nor hand egg.

Given that absence, I would like to know:

  1. What is exact etymology and history of handegg as documented by reputable scholarly sources?

  2. What is the primary sense of handegg, and are there any auxiliary senses or attendant connotations?

  3. Is handegg a word used in only one region or sociolect, or is it a word that most native speakers of English the whole wide world around would reasonably be expected know?

  4. Is handegg an inventive substitution for some other, better-known term?

  5. If handegg has a primary sense that is not shall we say “off-color”, does the word also some sort of double entendre whereby it also means something risqué?

Although that looks like five questions, it really is only one. To be accepted, only the first question needs answering. The others are just elaborations on the first.

Background: I’m asking because I kept reading handegg as handbag, which I genuinely thought it was until only a couple minutes ago when I was disabused of this misreading, but that only brought new mysteries. In the accent of Green Bay, Wisconsin, bag and egg can seem to have the same vowel due to the bag–beg merger, so maybe this is how I misread it.

  • 33
    You worked hard on that question. +1.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 15:27
  • 3
    I thought handeggs were just the more expensive version of nesteggs- according to the old saying, "An egg in the hand is worth two in the nest."
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 16:12
  • 25
    This could have easily been solved with Google.
    – user53089
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 0:44
  • 11
    @LegoStormtroopr Wrong: Google is not a “reputable scholarly source” as specifically requested and required by the question. Neither is Urban Dictionary.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 15:37
  • 9
    What great etymological question is there? Its a joke about "American Football". Except rather than kicking a ball with a foot play is done by holding an egg in the hand. Children understand this joke.
    – user53089
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 3:38

7 Answers 7


CBS Sports has this nice article explaining the origin of the word, including a newspaper snippet from 1909:

New York Times snippet

“Hand-Egg,” Not Football.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

Football is certainly a misnomer, for the game is played not with the feet but with the hands, and the ball is not a ball but an egg.

I propose that the game be played with the feet and with a ball, or else that it be called “hand-egg.”

New York, Nov. 7, 1909.

Hand-egg is the proposed word for what has been named football when describing a sport in which an egg is moved using one's hands, instead of an activity where a ball is moved with one’s feet.

  • 20
    Verified not fake: query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/…
    – Hugo
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 15:35
  • 18
    "Correct word" is certainly strong phrasing. I've only ever heard hand-egg used derisively, generally by people from countries where football refers to what Americans call soccer. There aren't any coaches going onto the field yelling at the quarterback to throw the hand-egg. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 18:57
  • 9
    @ChrisHayes: "correct word" is just following the facetious tone/assumptions of the original 1909 letter. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 19:12
  • 65
    By this notion, Soccer should be called "Flop-Writhe" since most action seems to be players faking injuries to get a penalty.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 19:34
  • 58
    @Oldcat: clearly you don't understand the sport in the least. Only one of the 22 players on the field is writhing around, the others are engaged in the far more important activities of gesticulating wildly, gazing imploringly at the ref, shrugging their shoulders, offering a hand to the "injured" player to shake, etc. It's all about the combined effect on the ref, those who just flop and writhe are ignoring that it's a team game. The same principle is starting to take hold in the NFL of course, under the current PI rules. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 1:49

It's a football reference.

  • The hat is a football helmet
  • The football is egg-shaped and held in your hands
  • A touchdown is worth 7 points (including the obligatory point-after-touchdown)

From Wiktionary:

From hand +‎ egg, by contrast to football meaning “soccer”, with the notion that the respective sports are “neither foot nor ball” due to the predominant use of the hands and the elongated form of the ball.

From Urban Dictionary:

American football. As opposed to football/soccer, where players actually kick a ball with their feet, American football involves players carrying an egg-shaped object in their hands.

Comparison of football and handegg

  • 2
    It's just the shape: the US football is not shaped like a ball, but more like an egg (i.e. elongated). And you cradle it, as if it's fragile. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 15:40
  • 20
    I think it's a joke term. I've never heard it used seriously. But many of the hats are based on jokes or memes. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 15:47
  • 11
    @RegDwigнt According to this article, in the NFL something like 99% of extra point attempts are successful, meaning that for all practical purposes the touchdown's value is 7 points. The hand-egg hat requires 7 votes. Other forms of the game hand-egg may or may not have different success rates for extra points, but that has no bearing on how this hat relates to football. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 16:00
  • 5
    For what it's worth, the image in this answer directly inspired the hat idea and design. The trigger was indeed a reference to the seemingly arbitrary score that results from a successful touchdown + extra point kick. (Note, it's also possible to get 8 points with a two-point conversion, but there's no hat for that.) Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 22:05
  • 3
    @DevSolar That's one way to look at it. Tell you what. Get the SE folks to change the number of votes required for the handegg hat and I'll update my answer accordingly. Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 13:46

A handegg is an American football.

It doesn't (often) touch the foot and isn't (much of) a ball shape.


Handegg is a village in Switzerland, in the Canton of Bern, somewhat near Lucerne. Beautiful place, I am sure, but just why they named that hat after it escapes me.

  • With my vote.. have a hand-egg helmet :) Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 10:34
  • 2
    Thanks, I'll be sure to wear it if I visit Switzerland :). Is it sad that this little joke is my most upvoted answer in the network?
    – xebtl
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 10:37
  • 2
    Only a little. My most upvoted answer is a piece of code that doesn't work ;) Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 10:40
  • Note that in German the syllables would be "Han" (pronounced "hahn") and "degg" - thus, the pronunciation is ever-so-slightly different that the English "hand-egg". Ah, America and Switzerland - two countries separated by several thousand miles, an ocean, a couple of intervening countries, a bunch of mountains, some pretty big rivers, and mutually incomprehensible languages. Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 13:02
  • @BobJarvis-ReinstateMonica Actually, the syllables would be Hand - egg because it is most like a compound word (Hand + Ecke). This is corroborated by a nearby place's name, Gerstenegg, which you'd analyse as a compound of Gerste + Ecke (barley + corner). In Standard German, Handegg would therefore have a glottal stop between the syllables. However, I'm not sure whether its Swiss pronunciation and English handegg have glottal stops.
    – Cacambo
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 12:24



  • From hand +‎ egg, by deliberate contrast to football meaning “soccer”, emphasizing the use of the hands and an elongated rather than round ball.

handegg (countable and uncountable, plural handeggs)

  • (slang, uncountable) A humorous term for the game of American football, or for any other sport called “football” that uses a prolate spheroid instead of a ball and in which the hands may be used, such as Canadian football or rugby.

(from en.wiktionary.org)

  • 2
    Is this a regionalism?
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 15:35
  • 1
    Not in the US.,,
    – Oldcat
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 20:11
  • 5
    @tchrist: If it's any "ism" it's probably anti-americanism. I've seen it used (and have used it myself) in many online forums where the membership includes a large number of people from the US but they're not the overwhelming majority. I've seen it used by Malaysians, Indians, Brazilians, Germans, Brits etc.
    – slebetman
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 8:18
  • 1
    Note that depending on the forum/community, the use of the word "handegg" can devolve into either playful banter or heated flamewars.
    – slebetman
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 8:20

It's an American football. It could also be related to Rugby football as rugby players are jovially known as "egg-chasers" in Britain.

  • 4
    This Brit has never heard of "egg-chasers", but admittedly does not follow Rugby in either code.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 16:09
  • Except you don't wear a helmet in Rugby. Out of interest, if you search "egg-chaser" on google, the first link is urban dictionary, the next few are unrelated, then you arrive at this page.
    – Pharap
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 19:19
  • 3
    This Brit has very definitely heard "egg-chasers" as a light-hearted derisory term for players of Rugby Football, particularly from fans of Association Football. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 10:18
  • Just to join in on the "vote", this Brit has never heard of "egg-chasers" either. I (used to) follow rugby, but if it's mostly used derisively by <strike>hooligans</strike> association football fans, that makes sense as I don't follow football. Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 10:37

Blame the English, they invented the names for all of the sports derived from soccer.

Association football (soccer) came first.
Then the English named the next game rugby football, after the town in England that changed the rules of soccer.

Then others derived games from rugby, still keeping the football name.

  • Rugby Football League
  • Australian Football League
  • American Football

If you're English and you want to whine about the names your country gave the sport, then harden up and go play something with some contact in it.

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