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track and field

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noun
a sport performed indoors or outdoors and made up of several events, as running, pole-vaulting, shot-putting, and broad-jumping.
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Other definitions for track and field (2 of 2)

track-and-field
[ trak-uhn-feeld ]
/ ˈtræk ənˈfild /

adjective
of, relating to, or participating in the sports of running, pole-vaulting, broad-jumping, etc.: a track-and-field athlete.

Origin of track-and-field

First recorded in 1930–35
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does track and field mean?

Track and field is the name for the group of sports that involve running on a track (short- and long-distance running races, from 100 to 10,000 meters), jumping (high jump, long jump, triple jump), throwing (shot put, javelin, discus, hammer throw), or some combination (hurdles, steeplechase, pole vault).

In track and field, the running events are performed on a track, the throwing events are performed on a field, and the jumping events are performed on a specialized setup (such as a track and a sand pit, as in the long jump and the triple jump).

When it is used as an adjective, the term is often hyphenated, as in track-and-field events.

Many track-and-field athletes compete in more than one track-and-field event. A sprinter may compete in 100- and 200-meter races, as well as a relay race, for example. A long-distance runner may compete in multiple long-distance races (such as the 1,500- and 5,000-meter races). Some track-and-field athletes compete in events that combine multiple running, jumping, and throwing events, such as the decathlon (10 events).

The track-and-field events at the summer Olympic Games (the Summer Games) are often considered the pinnacle of competition in the sport.

Not all sports that take place (or partially take place) on a track or field (such as archery or cycling) are considered part of track and field. Cross-country running is often considered distinct from track and field because it involves racing on open terrain (as opposed to a track).

In the UK and other places, track-and-field events are sometimes known collectively as athletics.

Example: I played football when I was younger, but in college I started competing in track and field.

Where does track and field come from?

The first records of the term track and field come from the early 1900s. It was first used in the U.S. as a way to collectively refer to the events that took place on a running track and the field in the middle of it. But many of the sports that track and field includes are ancient.

The oldest known major competition involving track and field is the ancient Greek Olympic Games, which started in 776 b.c.e, but there is evidence of running races dating back even earlier, including in Ireland as early as 1829 b.c.e. Track and field rose in popularity in England in the 1100s. Over time, track and field has grown in popularity and complexity, with events, rules, and methods being added and changed. Still, some track-and-field events from the ancient Olympic Games are still performed today, such as discus. Perhaps the most popular and well-known of the track-and-field events are the sprints—the 100- and 200-meter races—which, in the Olympics, feature the fastest runners in the world.

How is track and field used in real life?

Some of the events in track and field are especially popular spectator sports during the Olympics, especially the 100- and 200-meter races.

Try using track and field!

True or False? 

Field hockey is typically considered a track-and-field event.

How to use track and field in a sentence

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