relay race

Save This Word!

noun Sports.
a race between two or more teams of contestants, each contestant being relieved by a teammate after running part of the distance.
Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.
Compare medley relay.

Origin of relay race

First recorded in 1895–1900
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a relay race?

A relay race is a race between two or more teams in which each member of a team completes a portion of the race. A relay race is often simply called a relay.

Relay races are held in both track and swimming. Each portion of a relay race is called a leg, and each leg is completed by a different member of the team. The time it takes to complete a leg is called a split. The final leg is usually completed by the fastest team member, often called the anchor.

In track, as one member finishes, they must pass a baton to the next team member in a designated area.

Some relay races, called medley relays, include a combination of different lengths, such as in a sprint medley or a distance medley. In swimming, medley relays involve each teammate using a different swim stroke.

Two different track relay races are events in the Summer Olympic Games: the 4×100 meter race (in which each of the four team members runs 100 meters), and the 4×400 meter race (in which each of the four team members runs 400 meters).

Swimming relays in the Summer Olympics include the 4×100 meter freestyle relay, the 4×200 meter freestyle relay, and the 4×100 meter medley relay.

Example: I can’t believe how slow I’ve become—I used to be my track team’s anchor in relay races.

Where does relay race come from?

The first records of the term relay race come from the late 1800s, which is when track relay races began to gain popularity in the U.S.

In early relay races, a flag or torch was passed between teammates instead of a baton. The 4×100 relay was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1912. The women’s 4×100 relay was added to the Olympics in 1928.

Did you know … ?

What are some synonyms for relay race?

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

What are some words that often get used in discussing relay race?

How is relay race used in real life?

Relay races are often simply called relays. They are often held as events in track and swimming. Children sometimes participate in relay races that involve things like carrying eggs.

Try using relay race!

True or False?

In track, every runner in a relay race always runs the same distance.

How to use relay race in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for relay race

relay race

a race between two or more teams of contestants in which each contestant covers a specified portion of the distance
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