[ ath-leet ]
See synonyms for: athleteathletes on

  1. a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.

Origin of athlete

1520–30; <Latin āthlēta<Greek āthlētḗs, equivalent to āthlē- (variant stem of āthleîn to contend for a prize, derivative of âthlos a contest) + -tēs suffix of agency

pronunciation note For athlete

Athlete, athletic, and athletics, normally pronounced [ath-leet], /ˈæθ lit/, [ath-let-ik], /æθˈlɛt ɪk/, and [ath-let-iks], /æθˈlɛt ɪks/, are heard frequently with an epenthetic schwa, an intrusive unstressed vowel inserted between the first and second syllables: [ath-uh-leet], /ˈæθ əˌlit/, [ath-uh-let-ik], /ˌæθ əˈlɛt ɪk/, and [ath-uh-let-iks]. /ˌæθ əˈlɛt ɪks/. The pronunciations containing the extra syllable are usually considered nonstandard, in spite of their widespread use on radio and television. Pronunciations with similarly intrusive vowels are also heard, though with less currency, for other words, as [fil-uhm] /ˈfɪl əm/ for film, [el-uhm] /ˈɛl əm/ for elm, and [ahr-thuh-rahy-tis] /ˌɑr θəˈraɪ tɪs/ for arthritis, rather than the standard [film], /fɪlm/, [elm], /ɛlm/, and [ahr-thrahy-tis]. /ɑrˈθraɪ tɪs/.

Other words from athlete

  • non·ath·lete, noun
  • su·per·ath·lete, noun

Words Nearby athlete Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use athlete in a sentence

  • Where a fan 10 years ago had a coin-flip chance of attending a fracas, the modern-day one has less than a 17 percent chance of watching athletes drop the mitts.

  • Ash, who often interacts and streams with fans on social media, has seen the number of esports athletes increase both in Pakistan and globally.

  • Neck gaiters, buffs—whatever you call them, the jersey-type loops of fabric that can be worn around the neck and over the face and nose—have been a favorite of athletes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Don’t give up on your buff just yet | Katherine Ellen Foley | August 12, 2020 | Quartz
  • Effectively, the ruling meant that clubs and teams in EU countries could sign players from nations that have free trade agreements with the bloc, without treating them as overseas athletes.

  • At the university level, students have more power as paying customers — and athletes in particular as revenue generators.

    Is School Out Forever? | Daniel Malloy | August 9, 2020 | Ozy

British Dictionary definitions for athlete


/ (ˈæθliːt) /

  1. a person trained to compete in sports or exercises involving physical strength, speed, or endurance

  2. a person who has a natural aptitude for physical activities

  1. mainly British a competitor in track and field events

Origin of athlete

C18: from Latin via Greek athlētēs, from athlein to compete for a prize, from athlos a contest

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012