Football Language: Niggle / Niggling

Niggle can be used as a verb, adjective, or a countable noun, a niggle. However, in football it is most often used as an adjective

This post explains the football term ‘niggle’.Niggle

  • Find out more about this phrase by reading the transcript below.
  • You can also find many more examples of soccer vocabulary by going to our football cliches page here and our huge football glossary here.

Football Language: Niggle

This term can be used as a verb, to niggle, and adjective, niggling, or a countable noun, a niggle. However, in football it is most often used as an adjective when talking about a kind of foul or injury or as a noun when talking about an injury. A niggle is defined as a trivial discomfort or annoyance, so if a player has a niggle, it is a way of saying they have a small but recurring injury. The injury could be described as a niggling ankle injury, which means the player has a problem with their ankle that will not heal, get better, quickly. You may also hear the phrase niggling fouls, to describe a situation where one team is committing a lot of small fouls, and therefore disrupting the other team’s rhythm.

Example: Emre Can pain-free after niggling injury and happy to stay at Liverpool (headline from the Guardian, 13 March 2017)


I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
Google | Facebook | Twitter | Mail | Website

Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Learn English Through FootballWelcome to the website that helps students interested in football improve their English language skills. Football fans can practise with lots of free language resources, including football-language podcasts and our huge football-language glossary.

Recent Forum Posts

  • Back in the contest

    I hear the commentator say "in the contest" when they s...

    By Dwi , 16 hours ago

  • high

    What does "high" actually mean in football? Spurs 2-1...

    By Dwi , 19 hours ago

  • Rise/get up/tower above

    What do the phrases in bold mean?Melbourne Victory 1-2 ...

    By Dwi , 19 hours ago