The Essential Guide to Sports Vocabulary

Sports are a part of everyday life, and many people absolutely love them.

You might prefer to watch sports on TV or listen to live games on the radio.

Perhaps you play sports as a fun way to stay healthy, or you could even compete as a serious athlete.

No matter your relationship to sports, you’ll need to know some key sports-related words to participate at any level. Not to worry, as all of the main English words are right here in one place, forming your essential guide to sports vocabulary.


essential guide sports vocabulary

Arena: (N) Another word for arena that you’re probably more familiar with is stadium. It’s a flat area that hosts (holds) sporting events like the Olympic Games, soccer and rugby games. It is circular (like a circle) in shape and surrounded by seats for fans to sit.

The arena was packed full with excited fans to watch the final of the Champion’s League.



essential guide sports vocabulary amateur

Amateur: (N/Adj) An amateur is a person who is not a professional or does not get paid for what they do.

He’s an amateur soccer player, but one day he hopes to play for his favorite team in the UK: Manchester United.



essential guide sports vocabulary athlete

Athlete: (N) A person who practices and competes in any sport.

Joan’s brother is a professional athlete and plays tennis for a living (for money).



Athletic: (Adj) A person who is athletic and is good at sports.

I’ve never been very athletic and I don’t think my gym teacher liked me very much at school because I couldn’t even catch a ball.



essential guide sports vocabulary athletics

Athletics: (N) Athletics is the category for any track and field events, such as running (long and short distance), throwing the javelin, long jump etc.

My favorite events to watch during the Olympics are the athletics events. I love the running. I can’t believe how fast some people can run!



essential guide sports vocabulary awards

Award: (V, N) Any kind of prize, like a certificate, medal or a trophy. To be awarded something means to be given a prize.

The best three athletes at the Olympic Games are awarded medals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

She won the award for “Best Female Junior Snowboarder” in the city!


essential guide sports vocabulary beat

Beat: (V) To win against or defeat another player or team.

Andy Murray beat all the other players and won the Wimbledon tennis tournament.



essential guide sports vocabulary captain

Captain: (N) The captain is the team leader.

The English captain for the 2014 World Cup is John Terry.


Cheer on

essential guide sports vocabulary cheer on

Cheer on: (Phrasal V) To shout words of encouragement to your favorite team or player.

In the final five minutes of the game, the fans cheered on their teams hoping for a win.



essential guide sports vocabulary coach

Coach: (N) A person who is responsible for teaching and training the athletes to improve their skills.

My basketball coach told me I’m getting better at my free throws.



essential guide sports vocabulary compete competition

Compete: (V) To take part in a competition.

20 teams are competing to win the University Cup.



essential guide sports vocabulary court

Court: (N) The rectangle area where games like tennis, basketball and badminton are played.

When I play tennis, I prefer to play on a grass court because doctors have told me it’s better for my knees.



essential guide sports vocabulary course

Course: (N) An area of land that is used for long running events like marathons, car racing and golf.

Before he gets married next week, he’s going to go to the golf course to play a few rounds with the boys.



essential guide sports vocabulary defend

Defend: (V) Defense: (N) To try and stop the other team from scoring points or goals.

The coach wants us to play our best to defend against a goal.

Manchester City has a strong defense and it’s very difficult to score a goal against them.



essential guide sports vocabulary draw

Draw: (N) When two teams finish a game with the same number of points/goals. (also called a tie)

It was a very boring game to watch and it ended up in a draw. The score was 2-2.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Fan: (N) A supporter of a player, team or sport.

He’s a huge fan of the All Blacks and he watches every game they play.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Field: (N) An area of grass that is used to play sports such as field hockey, rugby or soccer.

The team ran onto the field at the beginning of the game and the fans cheered loudly.



essential guide sports vocabulary gym

Gym: (N) The place where you can go and exercise on machines or the inside area where sports lessons are done at school.

She’s trying to lose a few kilos and has started exercising at the gym twice a week.



essential guide sports vocabulary half-time

Half-time: (N) The short break between the first and second half of the game.

The team gathered in the changing rooms at half-time while the coach explained the strategy for the second half.


League: (N) A group of sports clubs from one area that play against each other for the season to try and win the championship.

Doncaster Rovers were at the top of their league last year, but this year they have been performing badly and are now positioned fifth on the table.



essential guide sports vocabulary medal

Medal: (N) A small circle piece of metal that can be gold for 1st place, silver for 2nd place and bronze for 3rd place.

Michael Phelps, the American swimmer broke the record when he won 6 gold medals at the Olympics.



essential guide sports vocabulary opponent

Opponent: (N) The person that you compete or play against in a competition.

Andy Murray’s biggest opponent at Wimbledon was Roger Federer, but he managed to beat him.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Pass: (V, N) To kick or throw the ball to another player in your team.

He passed the ball to his teammate who then went on to score the winning goal.



essential guide sports vocabulary physique

Physique: (N) The strength or shape of a person’s body.

She’s very small and slim. She’s got the perfect physique to be a gymnast.



essential guide sports vocabulary pitcher

Pitch: (V) To throw the ball to the person batting in softball or baseball.

He pitched the ball so fast that the person batting was unable to hit the ball.

Pitcher: (N)  In baseball, the player who throws the ball from the pitcher’s mound to the batter.

The pitcher was very talented; he pitched a perfect inning!



essential guide sports vocabulary practice

Practice: (N, V) To continue training to improve the skill.

Our college basketball team practices three times a week.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Professional: (N, Adj) To be paid money for the sport you do. Your sport is your job.

Many little boys dream of becoming professional sportspeople when they’re younger, but only a few can achieve their dreams.



Record: (N) The best performance of goals, medals, speed etc. that has ever been measured in a country or the world.

Ussain Bolt holds the world record for the fastest man in the world.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Referee (Ref): (N) The person who makes the decisions during a game. A referee runs up and down the field/court (soccer) with the players, but an umpire makes the decisions from one position (e.g. tennis).

The referee signaled the players to stop and he gave the player a yellow card for kicking another player.



Rules: (N) The laws of the game.

When you break the rules in any game, the referee punishes the player.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Score: (N) The points that each team has during the game.

The final score was 1-0; it was a really close game.



Serve: (V) To throw the ball up and hit it at the start of play (e.g. tennis and volleyball).

Venus Williams is known for her strong serve in tennis and it’s often difficult for less experienced players to return the ball.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Shoot: (V) Shot (N) To hit, throw or kick the ball to try and score a goal or point (e.g. rugby and basketball).

Michael Jordan is famous for scoring long distance shots and taking three points for the team.



Skill: (N) Skilled (Adj) To be able to do something well, to have talent.

He’s a skilled rugby player and if he keeps training, he might make it to the national team.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Spectator: (N) The viewer or person who watches a sporting event.

The spectators at Wimbledon are usually very calm compared to the shouting ones at a rugby match.



Sportsmanship: (N) To have good or bad sportsmanship is your attitude and your respect for the other team or player when you win or lose a game.

Not shaking a player’s hand after losing is an example of bad sportsmanship.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Tackle: (V) To try and take the ball of the other team.

He tried to tackle Messi, but Messi was too fast and continued to run with the ball.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Teammate: (N) A member of your team.

After the match Amy and her teammates go down to the bar for a drink.



Teamwork: (N) Working with your teammates to try and win.

Christiano Ronaldo is often criticized for his lack of (not enough) teamwork. He prefers to do things alone.



Tournament (N): A number of games and competitions between a certain number of teams or players to win the championship.

The Champion League tournament in Europe is probably the most famous European soccer tournament that is held every year.



Trainer: (N) Another word for a coach.

Train: (V) To practice.

Most winter sports teams train through the summer months so they can build their skills and fitness.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Victory: (N) Winning a competition.

The team celebrated their victory with a parade in their home city.



essential guide sports vocabulary

Whistle: (N) To blow the whistle (Phrase) The small tool that makes a sound that the referee or umpire blows during a game.

The referee blew his whistle and moved his hand to show the start of the match.

These are just a few of the words in the field of sports. Build your vocabulary today so you can chat with your friends about your favorite hobby or watch your favorite team take the championship.

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

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