The earliest known documentation of modern water polo can be traced back to the late 19th century and a Scotsman named William Wilson. He created what was first known as “aquatic football,” a form of soccer, rugby, wrestling, and American football. The first rules were established in Scotland in 1877, and the first game in the history of water polo is said to have been played "along the banks of the River Dee" in Aberdeen. It experienced a massive gain in popularity in the following years and was played throughout Great Britain. Shortly thereafter, in 1885, the Swimming Association of Great Britain officially recognized the game and formalized the rules made by Wilson. In 1886, the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association held their first championship, the West Cup.
Canada was one of the first countries outside Britain to adopt the sport. The Montreal Swimming Club which had formed in 1876 formed a water polo team in 1887 and in 1888, the sport was brought to the USA, by John Robinson, an English swimming instructor by organising a team at the Boston Athletic Association. Americans played a similar game but with different rules that allowed rougher play, holding, and a submersible ball. Between 1890 and 1900, the game developed in Europe, spreading to Hungary in 1889, Belgium in 1890, Austria and Germany in 1894 and France in 1895, using Scottish rules. The first international water polo match was between England and Scotland at the Kensington Baths in London, in 1890.
Water polo made its Olympic debut at the Paris Games in 1900, and would be present at each subsequent edition of the Olympic Games. In 1911, the Federation International de Natation Amateur (FINA) adopted the Scottish rules for all international events. An international water polo committee was formed in 1929 to deal with worldwide competitions, and rules were developed for international matches and put into effect in 1930. The Water polo World Championship is played together with the World Swimming Championship, under the auspices of FINA since 1973. Women began competing internationally in 1978, and the World Championship was added in 1986. Women's water polo became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Games.