[ stee-puhl-cheys ]
/ ˈsti pəlˌtʃeɪs /
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a horse race over a turf course furnished with artificial ditches, hedges, and other obstacles over which the horses must jump.
a point-to-point race.
a foot race run on a cross-country course or over a course having obstacles, as ditches, hurdles, or the like, which the runners must clear.
verb (used without object), stee·ple·chased, stee·ple·chasing.
to ride or run in a steeplechase.
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Origin of steeplechase

1795–1805; steeple + chase1; so called because the course was kept by sighting a church steeple

OTHER WORDS FROM steeplechase

stee·ple·chas·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does steeplechase mean?

Steeplechase is a kind of horse race in which horses with riders race through a course that includes obstacles like hedges, hurdles, and water-filled ditches.

There is also a non-equestrian event (for humans, not horses) that’s also called the steeplechase. This steeplechase takes its name from the horse race, but it’s a track-and-field event that consists of a race around a track featuring hurdles, barriers, and water pits. This is an event at the Summer Olympic Games, where the race length is 3,000 meters.

A competitor in either version of steeplechase can be called a steeplechaser.

Example: Whether you’re a horse or a human, you have to be incredibly athletic to compete in the steeplechase.

Where does steeplechase come from?

The first records of the word steeplechase in reference to the horse race come from the late 1700s. The event is thought to have originated in Ireland. The name steeplechase comes from the fact that these horse races were originally held on countrysides and used churches (which are known for having steeples) to mark the end of the race or as a landmark for riders (who would “chase the steeple”).

The first records of the use of steeplechase to refer to the track-and-field event come from the 1850s. It takes its name from the horse racing event. The modern track-and-field steeplechase event traces its origin to an 1850 race at Oxford University in which cross country runners ran a course that included natural ditches, water traps, and fences. This form of the steeplechase was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1900. The 3,000-meter track became standard in 1920.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to steeplechase?

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

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

How is steeplechase used in real life?

The name steeplechase is most commonly associated with the equestrian event. The track-and-field steeplechase is best known as an Olympic event.

Try using steeplechase!

Which of the following is NOT an obstacle in the track-and-field steeplechase?

A. water trap
B. hurdle
C. barrier
D. 10-foot wall

How to use steeplechase in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for steeplechase

/ (ˈstiːpəlˌtʃeɪs) /

a horse race over a course equipped with obstacles to be jumped, esp artificial hedges, ditches, water jumps, etc
a track race, usually of 3000 metres, in which the runners have to leap hurdles, a water jump, etc
  1. a horse race across a stretch of open countryside including obstacles to be jumped
  2. a rare word for point-to-point
(intr) to take part in a steeplechase

Derived forms of steeplechase

steeplechasing, noun

Word Origin for steeplechase

C19: so called because it originally took place cross-country, with a church tower serving as a landmark to guide the riders
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