The sport of Australian rules football has had a number of different names throughout its history. The official name according to the sport's governing body, the AFL Commission, is "Australian football". Historically, the sport was called "Victorian rules" (referring to its origins in Melbourne), the "Victorian game", the "bouncing game", "Australasian rules", the "Australian game" and "national football", as well as several other names. Today, the most common names for the sport are "football", "footy", "Aussie rules" and sometimes "AFL" (a genericised abbreviation of Australian Football League, the sport's largest competition and only fully professional league).
Historical names 
The first laws of Australian rules football were established in Melbourne in 1859 by Tom Wills of the Melbourne Football Club. This led to the development of the terms "the Victorian Game" or "Victorian Rules", although in Victoria, the general term was just "football" as early as 1860. As late as 1954, the term "Melbourne Rules" was being used by newspapers in New South Wales and Queensland to differentiate the game from other football codes. Another term was "the bouncing game", used mostly in Western Australia in the 1880s and 1890s to differentiate from the other codes, where bouncing was not permitted.
The term "Australian football" was in use outside of Victoria by the late 19th century. A variant of this, acknowledging the popularity of the sport in New Zealand, was "Australasian football". The 1908 Jubilee Australasian Football Carnival featured a team from New Zealand, but the popularity of the sport declined there after World War I. In 1927, the Australasian Football Council changed its name to the Australian National Football Council, to acknowledge that the sport was no longer being played competitively in New Zealand. State leagues were encouraged to include the term "Australian National" in their title, with the South Australian Football League (SAFL) becoming the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) in 1927, the Tasmanian Football League (TFL) becoming the Tasmanian Australian National Football League (TANFL) in 1928, and the West Australian Football League (WAFL) becoming the Western Australian National Football League (WANFL) in 1931. It was proposed that the Victorian Football League (VFL) become the Victorian Australian National Football League; however, this did not occur.
Several distinctions were made in the three major footballing states regarding the quality of play across different leagues. In Victoria, League football was considered superior to Association football (not to be confused with association football). In Western Australia, this distinction was also made between the West Australian Football League and the West Australian Football Association (formerly the 1st Rate Juniors competition), though the latter integrated into the WAFL reserves in 1921. There was also a distinction made in WA between the "coastal" (WAFL) and "'fields" (Goldfields Football League) leagues, who played each other regularly in the state premiership. In the 19th century, there was also a distinction made in most leagues between "senior" and "junior" football; this was not to do with age, rather with quality of play.
In December 1948, a controversy occurred when Dame Enid Lyons, the Member for Darwin, referred to Australian football as "our national game" in Parliament. This was rebuffed by the Prime Minister at the time, Ben Chifley, a New South Welshman, who suggested Lyons was "treading on dangerous ground". The secretary of the ANFC, Percy Page, sent a telegram reading: "Congratulations on your stand. The Prime Minister's obvious lack of knowledge of Australian sport is most regrettable."
Current names 
The current official name of the sport, as defined by the Australian Football League, is "Australian Football". Football, footy, Australian rules and the related Aussie rules (either capitalised) are also commonly used to refer to the game today.
The term "AFL" (an abbreviation of Australian Football League) is sometimes used, particularly in areas where the game is not widely played and thus no one particular name for the sport is ingrained in the local population. The Australian Football League has encouraged competitions to include the term "AFL" in their name: the Queensland Football League changed its name to AFL Queensland in 1999, the New South Wales Australian Rules Football League changed its name to Sydney AFL in 1998, and the Australian Capital Territory Football League changed its name to AFL Canberra in 1999. Leagues outside of Australia also make use of this term. Most major newspapers in Australia use either "AFL" or "football" to refer to the sport.
- THE VICTORIAN GAME. – Brisbane Courier. Published 27 July 1903. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- FOOTBALL. MELBOURNE V. RICHMOND – The Argus. Published 14 May 1860. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- Melbourne Rules – The Sunday Herald. Published 21 September 1952. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- Melbourne Rules – The Courier-Mail. Published 15 June 1954. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- FOOTBALL RULES. – The West Australian. Published 16 May 1882. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- THE AUSTRALASIAN GAME. – The West Australian. Published 3 May 1911. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- National Game. – The Advocate. Published 9 August, 1927. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- COASTAL EIGHTEEN V. GOLDFIELDS – The West Australian. Published 23 July 1901. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- National Game – The Examiner. Published 10 December 1948. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- AUSTRALIA'S "NATIONAL" GAME UPHELD – The West Australian. Published 9 December 1948. Retrieved from Trove, 9 November 2011.
- "Australian Football (Official title of the code)". Afl.com.au. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
- An old favourite: aerial ping-pong v biff and barge – smh.com.au. Written by Richards Hinds. Published 26 March 2005. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
- Pearl, Cyril (1974). Australia's Yesterdays: A look at our recent past. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia: Reader's Digest Services Pty Ltd. p. 178. ISBN 0-909486-23-9.
A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.