french sports vocabulary

How to Talk About Sports Like a True French Fan: 100+ Vocabulary Words You Need

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

Not a big fan of rote memorization? FluentU is a great tool to learn vocabulary like the words below in real French contexts. FluentU provides authentic French videos, like sports clips, news reports, movie trailers, YouTube videos and more, that’ve been transformed into language learning experiences.

Each video comes with interactive captions, flashcards and exercises so you actively learn new words while watching. FluentU will also suggest new videos based on what you’ve already learned, creating a truly personalized experience.

Sports lovers will enjoy this glimpse into soccer fandom in the Ivory Coast or this funny French YouTuber’s take on the sport he finds most confusing. You can explore the full video library for free with a FluentU trial.

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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

Athletic Actions

french sports vocabulary

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

french sports vocabulary

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

french sports vocabulary

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

french sports vocabulary

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

french sports vocabulary

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 owner and director of Scripturient Writing Services

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