What is a Nutmeg in Soccer? Everything You Need to Know

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

What is a nutmeg in soccer? In the beautiful game, the term “nutmeg” is used to describe a soccer skill that involves kicking the ball through the opponent’s legs before running past them and getting the ball back. A nutmeg is also referred to as a “meg” and this skill can be used in other sports such as hockey and basketball.

In this blog, I will explain everything you need to know about a basic, but important soccer term, the nutmeg skill.

Nutmeg in Soccer Image by Source

What is the Term Nutmeg in Soccer?

A nutmeg in soccer is a skill move that players use not only to beat their defenders but to embarrass them as well. Most players and fans love to see nutmegs because they are visually impressive and they are one of the most humiliating moves that you can perform on an opposing player.

Although a nutmeg does not really mean much in the grand scheme of things, especially if the play did not end in a goal, assist, or even shot at goal, it can be a very exciting thing to see. Attempting to get a lot of nutmegs in one game can often be seen as showboating although it can be a very effective way to get out of pressure or beat the opposition player.

Where does the Word Nutmeg Come From?

The nutmeg soccer term is a Victorian slang word that means to be deceived or tricked and it can be traced back to deceptive practices in the nutmeg trade during the 1870s. In those times, traders would mix real and fake nutmegs together, tricking buyers into believing they were getting more value for their money.

This artful deception resembles a key aspect of soccer, outsmarting your opponent on the field. This brings us to how ‘nutmeg’ found its way onto the soccer field. Over time, players started to call it a “nutmeg” when they would deceive their opponents by getting the ball through the opposing player’s legs.

An alternate theory links ‘nutmeg’ with Cockney rhyming slang, which was widely used among East London market traders during the Victorian era. In Victorian sland ‘nuts,’ short for ‘nuts and meg,’ symbolizes legs.

Here are some quotes from the book “Football Talk- The Language and Folklore of The World’s Greatest Game” in which the author, Peter Seddon, explains the origins of the word nutmeg and how it comes from the nutmeg exports between England and North America in the 19th century.

“Nutmegs were such a valuable commodity that unscrupulous exporters were to pull a fast one by mixing a helping of wooden replicas into the sacks being shipped to England. Being nutmegged soon came to imply stupidity on the part of the duped victim and cleverness on the part of the trickster.” – Peter Seddon

How to nutmeg in soccer?

Soccer is a game of deception because you have to trick your opponents into thinking you are going to do something and then very quickly do something else. To get a nutmeg you have to dribble towards an opponent and trick your opponent that you are going to go one way and then at the last second kick the ball through their legs and get it back.

If you only get the ball through their legs, but do not get the ball back, then the nutmeg is not complete and it doesn’t really count.

Nutmeg in various languages

The term nutmeg is known around the world, but different countries have their own variations.

For example,

  • Spanish speaking countries call it a “Caño”
  • Brazil refers to it as “Cañeta”
  • The French call it “Petit Pont” (Little bridge)
  • The Italians call is a “Tunne”
  • Most countries will call it either a nutmeg or a meg

The Art of Nutmegs

If you are not familiar with nutmegs or you want to see some of the best nutmegs by talented players, check out this video.

Nutmeg in Soccer

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called a nutmeg in soccer?

The term nutmeg comes from the Victorian slang of the 19th century. Check out this blog post to learn more about where the term nutmeg comes from.

How do you get better at nutmegs?

To get better at nutmegging opposing players, it is important to practice and improve your dribbling skills with sharp practice. Practice with one foot and then the other foot so that you are comfortable using both feet. It is also important to watch how professional players nutmeg other professionals.


In conclusion, in football, a nutmeg refers to a skill move that involves getting the ball through the defender’s legs and getting possession of the ball afterwards once it gets past the other side. In this blog, I covered everything you need to know about one of the most important soccer skills and terms, the nutmeg.

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