Kickoff or Kick-off: What’s The Difference?

Choosing between kickoff or kick-off can be confusing. This guide will help you identify which one is correct in specific situations.

Do you get confused between kickoff or kick-off? While the two words mean the same thing, they shouldn’t be used synonymously. The reason for that is simple: while kickoff is the standard spelling in American English, kick-off is the correct spelling when using British English.

Still, many people confuse the two. To avoid a mistake in your writing, you need to understand the definition and etymology of the two words, when to use them, and why some people write a seemingly third option, kick off. So, that’s what we’re covering in this guide.

While you are here, check out our article on English spelling mistakes to improve your writing accuracy.

Let’s dive in.

Kickoff Or Kick-off – Which One is Right?

Whether by scrolling through the internet or flipping through paper pages, you’ve probably encountered both spellings of this word at some point. So naturally, you might be wondering which one is right.

The answer is, both kickoff and kick-off are correct in specific circumstances. Unhyphenated kickoff is the recommended spelling in American and Canadian English, and kick-off is the correct spelling when using British English. It’s also what both the AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style recommend using in your writing. Now let’s explore this word further.

Kickoff vs Kick-Off – Etymology Of the Word

As kickoff and kick-off are just different local variants of the same word, we can conclude two things: 

  • They mean the same thing
  • They have the same etymology

Kickoff/kick-off is a compound word, consisting of two words: kick + off.

The phrase kick is a verb that’s been around since the 14th century, and it means “to strike out with the foot.” We can’t say for sure where the word originated from, but certain evidence points to Old Norse kikna, which means to “bend backward.”

For about a century or so, the word kick was solely used in the literal sense. But over time, more figurative meanings have developed, including “to strike in recoiling” and “protest against.”

The word off is an emphatic form of the Old English of which means “away,” and it can be used as both an adverb and a preposition. 

The contemporary meaning of the word kickoff/kick-off, is fairly new, rooting from the mid-1800s. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word in its literal meaning, which is in the context of a football match, was first used in 1857.

It wasn’t until about twenty years later that the word was used figuratively, referring to the start, or beginning of the event.

When to Use Kickoff?

When to use kickoff
In the case of the American football game, the kickoff happens at the start of each half, as well as before the first overtime

If you’re into sports, there’s a fair chance you’ve encountered the word kickoff before. This word is derived from the verb “kick off,” and it can be a noun or an adjective.

Kick off is a phrasal verb which is defined as “a phrase that consists of a verb with a preposition or adverb or both, the meaning of which is different from the meaning of its separate parts.”

Example of kick off as a phrasal verb:

  • Government officials said as many as 30,000 people attended the event, which was meant to kick off a series of similar demonstrations nationwide.
  • William and Kate kick off their royal tour next week.

But getting back to kickoff, as a noun, the word kickoff means the beginning or the initial stage of something. As we established, this is a common word in sporting events, particularly American football and soccer. 

In the case of the American football game, the kickoff happens at the start of each half, as well as before the first overtime. The term refers to the method of putting the ball in play. Basically, one team kicks the ball from their 30-yard line, while the other team tries to catch it and advance it as far as possible.

Similarly, the word kickoff is used in soccer to start each period and restart the game after a goal is scored. The ball is placed at the center of the field, with all players, aside from the kicker, in their own half of the field and at least 10 yards away from the ball.

In the case of both sports, the noun kickoff is used in a literal sense. However, this noun is often used in a figurative sense, to refer to the start of something – a synonym for commencement. 

Example of kickoff as a noun:

  • Will you be watching the kickoff of the game?
  • Team B has played badly ever since kickoff.

As we’ve established, the word kickoff can also serve as an adjective – the word that describes the quality or state of being of nouns. When used in such a case, kickoff refers to something that comes first, whether it’s the first event, meeting, seminar, etc.

Example of kickoff as an adjective:

  • I’m throwing a kickoff meeting for the new boss.
  • January represents the kickoff point for a better business year.

Further Examples of Kickoff in a Sentence

Here are some more examples of how the word kickoff can be used in a sentence as a noun:

  • The line for getting into the game starts hours before the kickoff.
  • In soccer, the team that takes the kickoff is decided with a flip of a coin.

Now, let’s look at a few more examples of the word kickoff when it’s used as an adjective:

  • Could you get ready and dress up faster? We’re already running late for Jack’s kickoff event.
  • This is going to be a horrible season – this year’s kickoff return rate is historically low.

When To Use Kick-off?

When to use Kick-off?
Kick-off can also be used as an adjective

Use kick-off in exactly the same way as you would use kickoff. It just depends on who your target audience is. As we have clarified, unhyphenated kickoff is the recommended spelling in American and Canadian English, and kick-off is the correct spelling when using British English.

Let’s look at a few example sentences that feature the British variation of the word used as a noun:

  • The kick-off starts at 10 am on the dot, so make sure you’re not late as usual.
  • Hines took the opening kick-off 96 yards for a touchdown, which gave the Bills a 9-0 lead over the Patriots.
  • No, that’s not how soccer game works – you can’t score an own goal directly from the kick-off.

Now, let’s look at some examples of the same word, but when it serves as an adjective:

  • Make sure to mark this moment – I’m 100% sure this will be the kick-off point for your future business.
  • Sara’s son won the first game of the season, so she’s hosting a kick-off party. There will be a pizza buffet and mocktails!

For further reading, check out our article on how to change American English to British English.