Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd!
For some of us, there’s no greater thrill than sitting in the stands under the sun and watching team rivals face off on the field or in the court.
For those of you who are more athletically fortunate than me, perhaps you’re on the field, pouring sweat and passion into the game and dreaming of the spectators’ cheers.
France is no stranger to sports fanatics and great athletic teams, boasting the ever famous PSG (Paris Saint-Germain) team among others for its soccer-crazed citizens and also home to the renowned Tour de France.
Learning vocabulary of all types is essential if you want to speak French like a true native and understand how to communicate with people who have varying interests.
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you’ll certainly need to know the basics if you want a well-rounded education.
Plus, let’s not forget where the 2024 Summer Olympics will be held: Paris!
Preparations for the big event are already underway, so wait no longer and head full force into the following French sports vocabulary.
Game On! 100+ French Sports Words for a Winning Vocabulary
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Types of Sports
Luckily for you, most French words for sports are extremely similar to their English counterparts, so you should be able to memorize this first list pretty quickly!
Le baseball — baseball
Le basketball — basketball
Le football — football/soccer
French speakers often shorten it to just le foot.
La danse — dance
La gymnastique — gymnastics
Le tennis — tennis
La natation — swimming
Le plongeon — diving
Le golf — golf
Le rugby — rugby
Le football américain — American football
Le hockey — hockey
Le patinage artistique — figure skating
Le volley-ball — volleyball
French speakers often shorten it to just le volley.
La boxe — boxing
La lutte — wrestling
Le cyclisme — cycling
La course — track
Verbs are very important not only for sports but also for everyday life. The following list is made up of the essential and most commonly used French action words in sports.
Courir — to run
Faire — to do
Sometimes in French, one uses faire (to do) rather than jouer (to play) when referring to a sport. This construction is used with certain activities that don’t involve a bat, stick, club or ball.
Just remember to add the preposition de + le/la/les before the sport. For example, Je fais de la lutte (I wrestle) or Je fais du ski (I ski).
You’ll see more examples later in this list.
Jouer — to play
Use jouer (to play) when referring to games (such as a board game or card game) or sports that incorporate a bat, stick, club or ball.
For this construction, you’ll need to use the preposition à + le/la/les before naming the game or sport. For example, Je voudrais jouer aux cartes (I would like to play cards) or Je joue au foot (I play soccer).
Marcher — to walk
Bondir — to leap
Sauter — to jump
Nager — to swim
Plonger — to dive
Donner un coup de pied — to kick
Lancer / Jeter — to throw
Attraper — to catch
Pousser — to push
Tirer — to pull
Plaquer — to tackle
Frapper — to hit
Passer — to pass
Marquer — to score
Donner un coup de poing — to punch
Gagner — to win
Perdre — to lose
Faire du patin à glace/ de patinage — to ice skate
Acclamer — to cheer
Applaudir — to applaud
Faire un flip — to flip
S’étirer — to stretch
Danser — to dance
Bouger — to move
Se battre — to compete
S’affronter — to fight
Compter les points — to keep score
Chronométrer — to time
Faire de l’exercice — to exercise
Equipment and Arenas
Certain equipment and places are necessary for each sport. Here are some items and locations needed for the most popular sports.
Un vélo — a bicycle
Une raquette — a racket
Une batte de baseball — a baseball bat
Un filet — a net
Un palet — a puck
Seeing as Canada boasts many of the world’s greatest hockey teams, I think it’s worth mentioning that Canadians use une rondelle rather than un palet to refer to a puck.
Un uniforme — a uniform
Les patins à glace — ice skates
Une balle — a ball
You only use une balle when denoting a small ball, such as those used in baseball and tennis. To talk about larger balls, such as those used in football and basketball, use un ballon.
Le tableau d’affichage — the scoreboard
La piscine — the pool
Le terrain — the field
When using this construction, don’t forget to add de in between le terrain and the sport you’re referring to.
For example, if you want to talk about a soccer field, you would say, le terrain de foot.
Le gymnase — the gym
Le stade — the stadium
La patinoire — the ice rink
La scène — the stage
Fans and Players
Without these people, sports would cease to exist, so learning the following vocabulary is a must. Pay special attention to the words that change their spelling depending on gender.
Les spectateurs — the spectators
Le public — the crowd
Un supporteur/une supportrice — a fan
Un joueur/une joueuse — a player
Le coach — the coach
L’équipe — the team
Un coéquipier/une coéquipière — a teammate
Un danseur/une danseuse — a dancer
Les adversaires — the opponents
Un rival/une rivale — a rival
Les athlètes — athletes
Un champion/une championne — a champion
Un annonceur sportif — a sports announcer
La défense — the defense
L’attaque — the offense
Le gardien/la gardienne — the goalie
Le capitaine de l’équipe — the team captain
Le lanceur/la lanceuse — the pitcher
L’arbitre — the referee
You use this same word to refer to an umpire in baseball and other like sports.
Le vainqueur — the winner
You can also use le gagnant/la gagnante to denote a winner.
Le quarterback — the quarterback
La forme physique — fitness
You can also just shorten this phrase and say, la forme.
For example, when referring to someone’s physical fitness, you can say, Il est en bonne forme. (He is in good shape.)
Athlétique — athletic
Talking About Matches
How’s the game going? Where are we? Who’s winning? This vocabulary will help you keep up.
Le score — the score
La mi-temps — halftime
Les prolongations — overtime
Le quart temps — the quarter
La manche — an inning
Un match nul — a tie
Le jeu — the game
La compétition — the competition
La course — the race
Le match — the match
Trophies and Tournaments
Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, you’ve probably watched some of the big games below.
Un trophée — a trophy
Le prix — the prize or award
La médaille — the medal
Le championnat — the championship
Coupe du monde — World Cup
The World Cup refers to FIFA’s international soccer competition that takes place every four years.
Série mondiale — World Series
The World Series refers to the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America.
Les Jeux Olympiques — the Olympics
Le fair-play — sportsmanship
You can also use la sportivité or l’esprit sportif to denote the same thing.
The above list should get you well on your way to being able to discuss and watch (or maybe even play) sports in French.
Keep practicing your vocabulary and who knows, you may just find yourself seated at the Olympics in Paris!
Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.
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