[ jim-nas-tiks ]
/ dʒɪmˈnæs tɪks /
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(used with a plural verb) gymnastic exercises.
(used with a singular verb) the practice art, or competitive sport of gymnastic exercises.
(used with a plural verb) mental feats or other exercises of skill: Verbal gymnastics.


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Origin of gymnastics

First recorded in 1645–55; see origin at gymnastic, -ics
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does gymnastics mean?

Gymnastics is a sport involving tests and demonstrations of balance, strength, and agility through physical exercises, many of which are performed using special equipment.

Skills performed in gymnastics include rhythmic dance, feats of strength and balance, and highly athletic and artistic body movements, such as vaults, flips, twists, and other aerial maneuvers.

The gymnastics events at the Summer Olympic Games are widely considered to feature the highest level of international competition. They consist of three separate competitions: artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, and trampoline gymnastics.

The most well-known form of gymnastics is artistic gymnastics, and this is the sport that’s most often simply referred to as gymnastics. It includes several different competitive events, including floor exercise, vault, parallel bars, uneven bars, horizontal bar, balance beam, rings, and pommel horse

Rhythmic gymnastics involves dancelike movements while handling objects such as balls, hoops, and ribbons. Trampoline gymnastics involves performing acrobatics with the aid of a trampoline.

Athletes who compete in the sport of gymnastics are called gymnasts.

The word gymnastics is also sometimes used in a figurative way to refer to the exercise of skill in some (usually difficult) task or action, as in I bet that took quite a bit of mental gymnastics. 

Example: In the history of gymnastics, there has never been another gymnast quite like Simone Biles.

Where does gymnastics come from?

The first records of the word gymnastics come from the mid-1600s. It comes from the Greek gymnastikós, which derived from the Greek verb gymnázein, “to exercise naked,” from gumnos, meaning “naked.” The word gymnasium and its short form, gym, are based on the same root.

The sport of gymnastics evolved from athletic practices from different cultures. The ancient Greek Olympic Games featured competitions that resemble some of today’s gymnastics events. Much of early gymnastics was based on the form of tumbling—acrobatic movements like somersaults—practiced by entertainers. Modern gymnastics is traced in part to German Philanthropinums, schools where physical training involved tumbling, vaulting, and similar forms of exercise.

Gymnastics competitions were featured at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and Olympic gymnastics competition was opened to women 1928. Today, the artistic gymnastics competition is one of the most well-known and watched events in the Summer Olympics, especially the women’s events.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to gymnastics?

What are some synonyms for gymnastics?

  • artistic gymnastics

What are some words that share a root or word element with gymnastics

What are some words that often get used in discussing gymnastics?

How is gymnastics used in real life?

There are many forms of gymnastics, but the most well-known form is sometimes called artistic gymnastics. Gymnastics is associated with extreme skill in balance, strength, and agility.

Try using gymnastics!

Which of the following events is part of the artistic gymnastics competition in the Olympics?

A. vault
B. floor exercise
C. balance beam
D. all of the above

How to use gymnastics in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for gymnastics

/ (dʒɪmˈnæstɪks) /

(functioning as singular) practice or training in exercises that develop physical strength and agility or mental capacity
(functioning as plural) gymnastic exercises
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