open-air game involving kicking a ball, c. 1400; in reference to the inflated ball used in the game, mid-14c. ("Þe heued fro þe body went, Als it were a foteballe," Octavian I manuscript, c. 1350), from foot (n.) + ball (n.1). Forbidden in a Scottish statute of 1424. One of Shakespeare's insults is "you base foot-ball player" [Lear I.iv]. Ball-kicking games date back to the Roman legions, at least, but the sport seems first to have risen to a national obsession in England, c. 1630. Figurative sense of "something idly kicked around, something subject to hard use and many vicissitudes" is by 1530s.
Rules of the game first regularized at Cambridge, 1848; soccer (q.v.) split off in 1863. The U.S. style (known to some in England as "stop-start rugby with padding") evolved gradually 19c.; the first true collegiate game is considered to have been played Nov. 6, 1869, between Princeton and Rutgers, at Rutgers, but the rules there were more like soccer. A rematch at Princeton Nov. 13, with the home team's rules, was true U.S. football. Both were described as foot-ball at Princeton.
Then twenty-five of the best players in college were sent up to Brunswick to combat with the Rutgers boys. Their peculiar way of playing this game proved to Princeton an insurmountable difficulty; .... Two weeks later Rutgers sent down the same twenty-five, and on the Princeton grounds, November 13th, Nassau played her game; the result was joyous, and entirely obliterated the stigma of the previous defeat. ["Typical Forms of '71" by the Princeton University Class of '72, 1869]
1580s, "let fall in drops or bits;" 1590s (intransitive) "fall in drops or small particles," frequentative of obsolete verb drib (1520s), a variant of drip (v.). The sports sense "give the ball a slight shove or bounce" first was used in soccer (1863), the basketball sense is by 1892 (implied in dribbling). Related: Dribbled. As a noun from 1670s.
late 13c., passen (transitive), "to go by (something)," also "to cross over," from Old French passer "to pass" (11c.), from Vulgar Latin *passare "to step, walk, pass" (source also of Spanish pasar, Italian passare), from Latin passus "step, pace" (from PIE root *pete- "to spread").
Intransitive sense of "to go on, to move forward, make one's way" is attested from c. 1300. The figurative sense of "to experience, undergo" (as in pass the time) is recorded from late 14c. Sense of "to go through an examination successfully" is from early 15c. Meaning "decline to do something" is attested from 1869, originally in cards (euchre). In football, hockey, soccer, etc., the meaning "to transfer the ball or puck to another player" is from c. 1865. Related: Passed; passing.
The meaning "to be thought to be something one is not" (especially in a racial sense) is from 1935, from pass oneself off(as), which is attested by 1809. The general verb sense of "to be accepted as equivalent" is from 1590s. Pass up "decline, refuse" is attested from 1896. Pass the buck is from 1865, said to be poker slang reference to the buck horn-handled knife that was passed around to signify whose turn it was to deal. Pass the hat "seek contributions" is from 1762. Pass-fail as a grading method is attested from 1955, American English.