Brief etymological history of ‘Commanders’ before football

What comes to mind when D.C.-area football fans hear the word “Commanders” is about to change as the Washington Football Team was renamed Wednesday morning.

The new name dates back to the 1300s, eons before the first recorded game of football in the late 1800s.

The word is derived from an old French word “comandere,” according to

Back in the 14th century, the word “commander” was first used to refer to “one in an official position of command or control: such as” a “commanding officer,” or “the presiding officer of a society or organization,” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary.

One of the earliest written appearances of the word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was circa 1386 in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Man of Law’s Tale in “The Canterbury Tales,” which goes, “Soothly, the comandour of that was he.”

Commander also came to refer to commissioned officers in the navy or coast guard who rank above a lieutenant commander and below a captain, according to Merriam Webster.

The U.S. president is often referred to as the “commander-in-chief,” taken from the U.S. Constitution, which states that “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”

In a less official sense, “commander” might bring to mind the Jeep Commander SUV.

For D.C.-area football fans, the word will carry a whole new meaning and history as the Washington Commanders and its fan base move forward.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2022 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up