[ uh-lim-pee-ad, oh-lim- ]
/ əˈlɪm piˌæd, oʊˈlɪm- /
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noun (often lowercase)
a period of four years reckoned from one celebration of the Olympic Games to the next, by which the Greeks computed time from 776 b.c.
a celebration of the modern Olympic Games.
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Origin of Olympiad

1350–1400; Middle English <Latin Olympiad-, stem of Olympias<Greek Olympiás noun use of the adj.: of Olympus. See Olympia, -ad1


O·lym·pi·ad·ic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does Olympiad mean?

An Olympiad is one of the events known as the Olympic Games, an international athletic competition featuring multiple sporting events between athletes representing their country.

The Olympic Games are commonly called the Olympics and are sometimes referred to as the Games of the Olympiad, often incorporating the number of the current event. For example, the official name given to the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was the Games of the XXXII (32nd) Olympiad.

There are two related but separate events that can be called an Olympiad: one hosted in winter, called the Winter Games, and one hosted in summer, called the Summer Games (they are commonly called the Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics). The Winter Olympics feature winter sports, including figure skating, skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, and many others. The Summer Olympics feature traditionally warm weather and indoor sports, like track and field, gymnastics, swimming, and basketball, among many others.

Olympiads are now usually staggered: there is usually two years between the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics, with each being held every four years (usually in even-numbered years). The Summer Olympics are usually in July and August and the Winter Olympics are usually held in February.

The modern Olympics are based on an ancient Greek festival and competition that’s also referred to as the Olympic Games. In this context, the word Olympiad refers to the four-year period between consecutive celebrations of the Olympic Games. The ancient Greeks actually used the four-year period known as the Olympiad as a unit of time (in a way similar to how we use a decade as a unit of 10 years).

The word Olympiad is sometimes used in a more general way in the names of other competitions, such as a Chess Olympiad.

Where does Olympiad come from?

The ancient Greek Olympic Games are thought to have been first held in 776 b.c.e., and this is when the four-year period known as the Olympiad began to be used as a unit of measuring time. The ancient games were held regularly—often every four years—until the 4th century c.e. They were held in a place known as Olympia, the plain of Mount Olympus, which in Greek mythology was believed to be the realm of the gods. The ancient Olympic Games featured a number of athletic competitions—some of which are still events today, such as discus—but they were also a major religious festival.

In 1892, French scholar Pierre de Coubertin began a movement to reinstate the Olympic Games as a global event. In 1896, the first global modern Olympiad was held in Athens, Greece.

The Winter Olympics and the Summer Olympics used to be held in the same year, but they started to be staggered in the 1990s. Today, each Olympiad hosts thousands of athletes from more than 90 countries. They are organized by the International Olympic Committee with the goal of gathering the world’s best athletes and creating global connections and peace between nations.

The Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics are both known for having elaborate opening and closing ceremonies that celebrate the culture of the host country.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing the Olympiad?

How is the Olympiad discussed in real life?

The Olympics are formally known as the Olympic Games and even more formally as the Games of the Olympiad. The word olympiad is sometimes used in a more general way in the names of other competitions.

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True or False?

The modern Games of the Olympiad are based on an ancient Greek festival.

How to use Olympiad in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Olympiad

/ (əˈlɪmpɪˌæd) /

a staging of the modern Olympic Games
the four-year period between consecutive celebrations of the Olympic Games; a unit of ancient Greek chronology dating back to 776 bc
an international contest in chess, bridge, etc
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