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For North American sports fans, most team names follow a similar convention. There’s a location, like New York, and then a nickname, like the Yankees or Mets. For European soccer clubs, however, things run a bit differently. While a name is often tied to obvious geography — think Manchester United, for example — there isn’t always a clear connection. Let’s consider Tottenham Hotspur as an example.

Although the club’s name does follow more of a North American style than you’d think, with Tottenham being a town within North London, there’s still a bit of history that doesn’t exactly translate across the pond. That explains where the “Hotspur” part and, in turn, “Spurs” come from within Tottenham’s name.

Harry Hotspur provided the historical basis for Tottenham’s name and badge

The cockerel atop Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. | Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images
The cockerel atop Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. | Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

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If you think back to high school English class, you might remember Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 and the character Henry Percy. Not only was the knight, who earned the nickname Harry Hotspur, a real historical figure, but he has also shaped the world of European football.

As documented by an old BBC post, “the Percy family owned a family seat on Tottenham Marshes.” In the late 1800s, that area became home to a football club, which, in turn, started calling itself Tottenham Hotspur.

Beyond the club name, Harry Hotspur has also inspired the club’s badge. While the knight would have been spurring his horse into battle, the football club’s badge features a fighting cockerel, which has a spur on its ankle. The logo has evolved over the years, but it’s an iconic part of Spurs’ image; a bronze cockerel sat atop White Hart Lane and has since moved to the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

From afar, it might seem like calling Tottenham “Spurs” is just a simple abbreviation of Tottenham Hotspur. And while that’s not completely wrong — Occam’s razor and all that — it would skip over an important part of club history.

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