What’s in a name?

United. City. Rovers. Town. Athletic.

These names are synonymous with football, and in particular British football. However, travel further afield and you will find yourself looking at names of football teams and thinking “huh?”. This is especially true of German football with its ‘Borussias’, ‘FSVs’ and ‘TSVs’. The Germans love a complicated name.

So what do they all mean? What do these letters and numbers in German football actually stand for? Well wonder no more! Here is a list of all the Bundesliga teams and the meanings behind their names.

Before I start I need to explain the name of a team not in the Bundesliga. I am a huge TSV 1860 Munich fan so it only makes sense that I start with them. With 1860 it is important to know two things. Firstly TSV 1860 Munich didn’t actually start playing football until 1899 and secondly, the full name for them is Turn-und Sportverein München von 1860. This basically stands for ‘Gymnastics and Sports Club’ and it was originally established as a fitness club in 1860. By 1899 there was a need to include football so they established a football team within the original setup. The rest is history!

Now for the Bundesliga…




FC Augsburg – Fußball-Club Augsburg 1907 e.V

Hopefully the ‘FC’ bit doesn’t need explained but there is a random ‘e.V’ at the end. These letters stand for ‘registered association’.


Bayer 04 Leverkusen

A team based in Leverkusen, that much is clear, but what about the ’04’ and the ‘Bayer’. Well firstly the club was founded in 1904 so that one is easy. Secondly the name Bayer comes from a group of employees from the chemical and pharamceutical company ‘Friedrich Bayer and Co.’ who wrote a letter to Bayer to encourage them to start a football club. So they did.


FC Bayern Munchen

The ‘other’ team in Munich. The only thing to clear up here is the name ‘Bayern’ which is simply the German name for Bavaria, the region in which FC Bayern are based.


Borussia Dortmund – Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund

There is the ‘e.V’ again! Other than that we have Dortmund which is easy enough, and ’09’ for 1909 but as for ‘Borussia’ and ‘Ballspielverein’ they are a little less obvious. The name Borussia is the latin for the area formerly known as ‘Prussia’ however the name for the football team actually comes from a local brewery called ‘Borussia’. The ‘Ballspielverein’ means ‘ball games club’.


Borussia Monchengladbach – Borussia VfL 1900 Monchengladbach e.V

Right, what a mouthful! So, ‘e.v’ we know, Borussia we know (these guys were actually named after Prussia) and Monchengladbach is the district in which they play. Easy! Although we are left with ‘VfL’. The term Vfl stands for stands for ‘Club for Sports’.


Eintracht Frankfurt e.V

Right, time to stop mentioning the ‘e.V’ bit. We get it! The only thing that really needs explained here is the meaning of the word ‘Eintracht’. The literal translation is ‘concord’ but it really means things like ‘peace’,’unity’ and ‘harmony’ so it is more of a message than anything else. They play in Frankfurt, obviously.


SC Freiburg

Is that it? They play in Freiburg and SC stands for ‘Sports Club’. Easy!


Hamburg/HSV – Hamburger Sport-Verein e.V

Based in Hamburg we only need to know what ‘SV’ or ‘Sport-Verein’ stands for. It means ‘Sports Club’. Interestingly, HSV can be traced back to 1887 but after WW1 they, along with two other teams, had to merge due to losing so many men. They officially became HSV in 1919.


Hannover 96 – Hannoverscher Sport-Verein von 1896

Based in Hanover this ‘Sports Club’ was formed in 1896. Done! On a side note I absolutely love their badge.


Hertha Berlin – Hertha Berliner Sport-Club von 1892

Berlin. Boring. Sport Club. Boring. 1892. Boring. The exciting part to this name is the ‘Hertha’ bit. Fritz Linder, one of the founders, decided to name the club after a steam boat, which he and his dad had made a day trip on. On the funnel of the “Hertha” was the shipping company’s colours, white with blue stripes, which are to this day also the colours of Hertha BSC. Great story!


TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – Turn-und Sportgemeinschaft 1899 Hoffenheim e.V

So yeah, lets try and decipher ‘Turn-und Sportgemeinschaft’, the rest is easy. The ‘turn’ part refers to a gymnastics club that originally merged with a football club to form the ‘sportgemeinschaft’ or ‘sports community’.


1. FC Koln – 1. Fußball-Club Köln 01/07 e.V

First of all, Koln is a place. That might seem obvious but we say ‘Cologne’ which is the English translation. There’s a couple of interesting things here (and yes that is a goat). Firstly the 01/07 isn’t a date but more of a reference to two clubs that merged. Both ‘Kölner Ballspiel-Club 1901‘ and ‘SpVgg Sülz 07‘ came together to form the club we now have. The other interesting thing is the ‘1.FC’ at the start. Lots of German clubs have this prefix and it stands for ‘Erster Fußballclub’ or ‘first football club’. It means that team is the oldest in that town or city.


1. FSV Mainz 05 – 1. Fußball- und Sportverein Mainz 05 e.V

Talking of teams that have the number 1 at the beginning! Mainz play in Mainz and were founded in 1905. The term ‘Fußball- und Sportverein’ we know by now and means ‘Football and Sports Club’. Most teams with this title have it because of several mergers with other small clubs, it is a feature of German football.


SC Paderborn 07 – Sport-Club Paderborn 07 e.V

Nothing to note really. They play in Paderborn, were formed in 1907 and that is about it! Nice badge though, very retro.


FC Schalke o4 – Fußballclub Gelsenkirchen-Schalke 04 e.V

A football club started in 1904 based in the Schalke district of Gelsenkirchen. Done!


VfB Stuttgart – Verein für Bewegungsspiele Stuttgart 1893 e.V

So, based in Stuttgart and formed as a rugby club in 1893. Thankfully they saw sense and diversified into a proper sport like football in 1904 (although it took them 11 years!). The term ‘Verein für Bewegungsspiele’ loosely translates as ‘Club for Exercise and Movement’.


SV Werder Bremen – Sportverein Werder Bremen von 1899 e.V

This club was founded by a group of high school students. In 1899 they had won some sporting equipment and decided to start a sports club. The name ‘Werder’ was chosen by them as it means ‘river peninsula’ and the students played football in a field next to a river.


VfL Wolfsburg – Verein für Leibesübungen Wolfsburg e.V

‘Verein für Leibesübungen’ means ‘Club for Exercise’ but the interest in Wolfsburg is actually in their origins. The city of Wolfsburg was only actually built in 1938 and was originally given the snappy title ‘Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersleben’. It was built to produce the VW Beetle car and the town played a major role in general manufacturing during the Second World War. After the war had ended the British insisted on changing the name of the city to Wolfsburg and it was only in 1945 that the football team was established, making it very young compared to other teams in Germany. To this day Volkswagen play a major role in the club and act as sponsor to the team and the stadium.

This means ‘end’ by the way.

So that is it! A whole selection of teams with weird and wonderful names but each with an interesting back story. I might come back to the topic of German football in another post because for me it has such a fantastic history.

There are a few names I have missed, mainly teams playing in leagues lower than the Bundesliga. Again I might come back to these in a later post.

If anyone wants to know more about the history and beginnings of German football I cannot recommend ‘Tor!: The story of German Football’ highly enough. It was written by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger and is a complete guide to everything football related in Germany.