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General Sports Vocabulary

This page lists vocabulary used in talking about sport and sports in general, with example sentences and meanings. On other pages you can find vocabulary for specific sports.

For each term we give an example sentence in italics followed by the definition. Try to deduce the meaning from the context before looking at the definition.

arena
The arena was full of excited spectators cheering on their team.
a level area for holding sports events, surrounded by seats for spectators

amateur
The Olympic Games were originally for amateur athletes only.
engaged in something, like playing sports, without payment; non-professional

athlete
Most professional athletes spend hours every day in training.
a person who trains for and competes in a sport

athletics
There are some very good runners on our athletics team.
'track and field' events of running, jumping, throwing, etc.

award
All the members of the winning team were awarded a gold medal.
to give someone something as a reward for high achievement

beat
Italy beat France to win the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
to defeat someone in a game or a competition

captain
The captain usually leads his or her team onto the field.
the leader of a team

catch
A wicketkeeper in cricket must be very good at catching the ball.
to grab and hold something that has been thrown

champion
The boxer Muhammad Ali was World Heavyweight Champion three times.
a top-rated, highly successful player

cheer on
The fans made a lot of noise cheering on their team.
to shout encouragement to a team or a player

coach
Players should carry out their coach's instructions during a game.
a person who trains and directs an athlete or a sports team

compete
Over 10,000 athletes will compete in the Olympic Games.
to take part in a contest or a competition

competition
The English Premiership League is one of the world's top football competitions.
an organized event in which people compete to win

competitor
Each competitor in a golf tournament must record his or her own score.
a person who takes part in a competition or a sporting contest

contest
Do you know who won this year's figure skating contest?
a game or event in which people compete to win

court
The tennis courts at Wimbledon in London have a grass surface.
a quadrangular area on which ball games are played, such as tennis or basketball

course
A golf course usually has eighteen holes.
an area of land prepared for racing, golf, or other sports

cup
After they won the final game, the winners were awarded the Championship Cup.
a cup-shaped trophy, awarded as a prize in a contest

defeat
Our players were very happy after they defeated their opponents in the final game.
to win a victory over opponents in a game or contest; to beat

defend
The team attacked and scored two goals, then spent the rest of the game defending the lead.
to protect one's goal rather than attempt to score against one's opponents

draw
The score was 1-0, but the losing team got a late goal and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
to finish a contest or game with an even score; tie

event
The 100 metres run is one of the most exciting events in athletics.
a particular contest in a sporting programme

fan
Sometimes the umpire of a tennis match has to tell noisy fans to be quiet.
a person who supports a particular sport, team or player

field
How many players are allowed on the field during a baseball game?
a piece of land marked out for a sports contest e.g. hockey field

final score
Today's basketball game was very close. The final score was 84 to 82.
the score at the end of a game

fitness
I exercise at the gym every day for fitness and good health.
the condition of being physically fit and healthy

goal
Jimmy got the ball, ran down the pitch, and then scored the best goal of the game.
an instance of scoring in a ball game by getting the ball into a target such as between goal-posts, through a hoop, or into a net.

gym / gymnasium
Our gym has a lot of new exercise equipment, including running machines and cycling machines.
a room or building equipped for physical exercise

half-time
The players went into the rooms at half-time and listened to their coach.
the interval between the first and second halves of a game

judge
In sports like diving and gymnastics, judges score each performance in a contest.
a person who rates the quality of a sporting performance, usually by awarding points

league
Nearly every town in the U.S. has teams in a local baseball league.
a group of sports clubs that play each other over a period for a championship

leisure
It's good for kids to spend some of their leisure time playing sports.
free time, or the use of free time for enjoyment

lob
Her lob flew high into the air and dropped into the back of the court, just inside the baseline.
a shot that is hit in a high arc, usually over the opponent's head

manager
Liverpool sacked their manager after they lost eight of their previous ten games.
the person in charge of a sports team

medal
Every athlete's dream is to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.
a piece of engraved metal given to signify an achievement or an honor

object
The object of the game of football is to score more goals than the opponents.
the thing you want to get or achieve; what you aim to do

offside
Forwards have to learn how to avoid being caught in an offside position.
In an illegal position ahead of the ball (in football, rugby, hockey, etc.)

opponent
Roger Federer's opponent in the Wimbledon final was Rafael Nadal.
the person one competes against in a contest or a game; rival

pass
A defender tries to pass the ball to a forward in a good position to score.
to throw or kick the ball to another player on one's own team

penalty
The penalty for abusing a referee is usually a one-match suspension.
a punishment imposed on a player or team for breaking the rules of a sport

perform
All the athletes will do their best to perform well in the Olympic Games.
to carry out a practised activity, such a play a sport

performance
Venus Williams put in one the best performances of her life to win the tournament.
an instance of competing in a sports event in public

physique
Rugby players work hard in the gym to build up their physiques.
the form or shape of a person's body

pitch (1)
The fans cheered as the players ran onto the pitch.
a playing field (British)

pitch (2)
Our pitcher threw one of the best pitches of his life to win the game.
a throw of the ball, esp. in baseball and softball

player
How many players are on the court during a doubles match in tennis?
a person who plays a sport

practise
(U.S. spelling; practice)

Professional golfers spend hours every day practising their shots.
to repeatedly do something in order to develop one's skill

professional
Tiger Woods has been a professional golfer since he was 20 years old.
a person whose paid occupation is playing a sport

record
Do you know who holds the world record for the men's 100 metres?
the best performance that has been officially measured and noted

referee
The referee saw a foul, blew his whistle and awarded a free kick.
a sports official with authority to make rulings during a contest

rules
In several sports there is an offside rule, and it's often difficult to explain.
the laws or regulations that govern how a game or sport is played

score
Do you know how to keep score in badminton?
the number of points a competitor or team earns during a game

serve
Serving the ball is one of the most important skills in sports like tennis.
to hit the ball to begin play (in tennis, table tennis, squash, volleyball, etc.)

shoot
In basketball, players try shoot from outside the 3-point line to score the extra points.
to kick, hit, or throw the ball in an attempt to score a goal (in soccer, hockey, basketball, etc.)

skill
Ken has gone to a boxing camp to improve his boxing skills.
the ability to do something well

spectator
Spectators can add a lot to sporting events by creating an exciting atmosphere.
a person who watches an event

sportsmanship
Good managers know how to teach their players sportsmanship.
an attitude of fairness, respect for opponents, and graciousness in winning or losing

stadium
plural: stadiums or stadia

The stadium was built for sports, but it's sometimes used for concerts as well.
a sports arena with tiered seating for spectators

strategy
One of the jobs of the manager or coach is to develop a strategy for winning each game.
a plan to achieve an objective

tackle
Rugby players have to learn how to tackle an opponent strongly but fairly.
to challenge an opponent who has the ball

tactics
Players use tactics such as attacking their opponent's weaknesses in order to win.
an action or strategy planned to achieve an objective

talent
Our daughter's basketball coach says she has a lot of natural talent for the game.
a natural aptitude or skill

teammate
The team wins because the players are always looking for their teammates.
a fellow member of a sports team

teamwork
The best teams spend a lot of time on the training ground working on teamwork.
the combined action of a group of people

tie
The score was very close throughout the game, and it ended in a tie with 89 points each.
a result in a game in which teams have the same final score; a draw

tournament
The four major tennis tournaments form what is known as the 'Grand Slam'.
a series of contests between a number of competitors, who compete for an overall prize

trainer
Some players are a bit lazy and need a strict trainer to make them work hard.
a person who helps athletes develop their skills and fitness

train
The hockey team trains every Tuesday and Thursday after school.
to teach a skill over time through instruction; to practise a skill

trophy
The players carried the trophy over their heads as they ran around the stadium.
a decorative object awarded as a prize in a contest or a tournament

umpire
In a game of cricket, there are two umpires on the field during play.
a sports official with authority to make rulings during a contest

victory
The players had worked very hard, and they deserved their victory.
the act of winning a game or contest

whistle
The referee blew his whistle twice to signal the end of the match.
a small instrument that makes a high-pitched noise when blown

Contributor: Matt Errey