53 Sports Vocabulary Terms in English

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.

Read on to learn 53 must-know sports vocabulary terms in English!


1. Arena

Noun: 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 of excited fans to watch the final of the Champion’s League.

2. Amateur

Noun/Adjective: An amateur is a person who is not a professional or does not get paid for what they do.

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

She started off as an amateur before being recognized for her talent.

3. Athlete

Noun: A person who practices and competes in any sport.

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

4. Athletic

Adjective: 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.

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5. Athletics

Noun: 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!

6. Award

Verb: 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.

Noun: Any kind of prize, like a certificate, medal or a trophy.

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

7. Beat

Verb: To win against or defeat another player or team.

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Carlos Alcaraz beat all the other players and won the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

8. Captain

Noun: The captain is the team leader.

The captain of the team called the players over to talk at half-time.

9. Cheer on

Phrasal Verb: 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.

10. Coach

Noun: 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.

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Verb: To train.

He’s been coaching the local team since August.

11. Compete

Verb: To take part in a competition.

20 teams are competing to win the University Cup.

12. Court

Noun: 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.

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13. Course

Noun: 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.

14. Defend

Verb: 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.

15. Defense

Noun: When someone is defending.

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

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Note that in British English, this word is spelled defence.

16. Draw

Noun: When two teams finish a game with the same number of points or 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.

17. Fan

Noun: A supporter of a player, team or sport.

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

18. Field

Noun: 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.

19. Final

Noun: The last round of something (e.g., a match, a championship, etc). This can be written as the “final” or “finals.”

The diver was ecstatic after reaching the finals.

Adjective: The last one.

The runner passed the finish line for the final time in his career before retiring.

20. Gym

Noun: 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.

21. Half-time

Noun: 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.

22. League

Noun: 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.

23. Medal

Noun: 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.

24. Opponent

Noun: The person that you compete with or play against in a competition.

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

25. Overtime

Noun: Extra time that can be added to the original allocated time for a sports event.

Since neither team had been able to score during the 90 minutes, the game went to overtime.

26. Pass

Verb: To kick or throw the ball to another player on your team. To go ahead of someone.

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

He passed his competitors and won the race.

Noun: When someone kicks or throws something to another person.

It was a bad pass and the other team managed to get the ball.

27. Personal best

Noun: A record, the best results set by the athlete.

The runner set a new personal best during the 800m sprint.

28. Physique

Noun: 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.

29. Pitch

Verb: 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.

30. Pitcher

Noun: 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!

31. Practice

Verb: To continue training to improve the skill.

Our college basketball team practices three times a week.

Noun: Training.

We usually have practice twice a week.

32. Professional

Noun/Adjective: To be paid money for the sport you do. Your sport is your job.

His dream to become a professional came true last year when he was asked to join the team. 

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

33. Record

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

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

34. Referee ( Ref )

Noun: 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 for the players to stop and he gave the player a yellow card for kicking another player.

35. Rules

Noun: The laws of the game.

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

36. Score

Noun: The points that each team has during the game.

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

37. Serve

Verb: 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.

38. Shoot

Verb: To hit, throw or kick the ball to try and score a goal or point (e.g., soccer and basketball).

The soccer player was far from the goal, but his team called for him to shoot as there were only ten seconds left and they needed to win the match.

39. Shot

Noun: When someone shoots to score.

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

40. Skill

Noun: A talent.

One of the most important skills for success in any sport is coordination.

41. Skilled

Adjective: 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.

42. Spectator

Noun: 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.

43. Sportsmanship

Noun: 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.

44. Tackle

Verb: 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.

45. Tactics

Noun: The plan, the strategy.

The tennis player had to change his tactics after seeing how strong the other player was.

46. Team

Noun: A group that works together.

The swimming team represented their country at the Olympic Games.

47. Teammate

Noun: A member of your team.

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

48. Teamwork

Noun: Working with your teammates to try and win.

Cristiano Ronaldo is often criticized for his lack of teamwork. He prefers to do things alone.

49. Tournament

Noun: A number of games and competitions between a certain number of teams or players to win the championship.

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

50. Trainer

Noun: Another word for a coach.

The trainer stood watching nervously as the boxer entered the ring.

51. Train

Verb: To practice.

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

52. Victory

Noun: Winning a competition.

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

53. Whistle

Noun: The small tool that makes a sound that the referee or umpire blows during a game (phrase: to blow the whistle).

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. You can find more by reading sports news in English, or you could also take a look at some of the sports-related videos available on the FluentU program.

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