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Olympic Games

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plural noun
Also called Olympian Games . the greatest of the games or festivals of ancient Greece, held every four years in the plain of Olympia in Elis, in honor of Zeus.
Also called O·lym·pics . a modern international sports competition, held once every four years.
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Origin of Olympic Games

First recorded in 1600–10
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

MORE ABOUT OLYMPIC GAMES

What are the Olympic Games?

The modern Olympic Games, commonly called the Olympics, are an international athletic competition featuring multiple sporting events between athletes  representing their country.

There are two related but separate events called the Olympic Games: 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 Games feature winter sports, including figure skating, skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, and many others. The Summer Games feature traditionally warm weather and indoor sports, like track and field, gymnastics, swimming, and basketball, among many others.

The Olympic Games are sometimes referred to as the Olympiad or the Games of the Olympiad, often incorporating the number of the current event. For example, the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will be known as the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. The event is often referred to with the name of the host city, as in the Tokyo Olympics. Athletes who compete in the Olympic Games are called Olympians.

At the Olympic Games, the top three finishers in each event are famously awarded Olympic medals: gold for first place, silver for second place, and bronze for third place.

Because the Olympic Games often feature the best athletes in the world, winning a medal—or even competing—in them is considered one of the peaks of athletic achievement.

The modern Olympic Games are based on an ancient Greek festival and competition that’s also referred to as the Olympic Games. The ancient games featured a range of athletic competitions as well as patriotic and religious rituals.

When are the Olympic Games?

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

The 2024 Summer Olympic Games are scheduled for July 26–August 11, 2024. They will be held in Paris, France.

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games are scheduled for February 4–20, 2022. They will be held in Beijing, China.

More information and context on the Olympic Games

The ancient Greek Olympic Games are thought to have been first held in 776 b.c.e., and they 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 Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece.

The Winter Games and the Summer Games used to be held in the same year, but they started to be staggered in the 1990s. Today, the Olympic Games host 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 Games and the Winter Games are both known for having elaborate opening and closing ceremonies that celebrate the culture of the host country.

The Paralympic Games, an international competition for athletes with a range of bodily differences and disabilities, are usually held in the same city as the Olympic Games.

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

How are the Olympic Games discussed in real life?

The Olympic Games are popularly referred to as the Olympics. Many Olympic events are widely considered the pinnacle of athletic competition.

Try using Olympic Games!

True or False?

The Olympic Games are based on an ancient Greek festival.

How to use Olympic Games in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Olympic Games

Olympic Games

noun (functioning as singular or plural)
the greatest Panhellenic festival, held every fourth year in honour of Zeus at ancient Olympia. From 472 bc, it consisted of five days of games, sacrifices, and festivities
Also called: the Olympics the modern revival of these games, consisting of international athletic and sporting contests held every four years in a selected country since their inception in Athens in 1896See also Winter Olympic Games
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

Cultural definitions for Olympic Games

Olympic Games

Games held in ancient times on the plain of Olympia in Greece every four years. It was a time for laying aside political and religious differences, as athletes from all the Greek cities and districts competed. The games included patriotic and religious rituals as well as athletic contests, and high honors were given to the winners. The Greeks counted their years by olympiads (periods of four years) and dated events from the first Olympics in 776 b.c.

notes for Olympic Games

The Olympic Games deteriorated under Roman rule of Greece and were halted in the fourth century. They were revived in the late nineteenth century, with goals of peace and fellowship modeled on those of the ancient Olympics. The modern Olympics include many athletic events of the original games, such as the discus throw.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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