water polo

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an aquatic game played by two teams of seven swimmers each, the object being to score goals by pushing, carrying, or passing an inflated ball and tossing it into the opponent's goal, defended by a goalkeeper.
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Origin of water polo

First recorded in 1885–90
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does water polo mean?

Water polo is a sport that involves two teams of swimmers competing to get a ball into the opposing team’s goal in order to score the most points. The game is played entirely in the water, requiring the players to tread water the entire time.

Water polo is an event at the Summer Olympic Games.

Water polo is typically played in a pool (or a roped-off area in a pool). Despite being in the water, the play area in water polo is called the field. Just as in soccer (football), there are goals at both ends. Games consist of four periods. Each team has seven players, including a goalkeeper.

Water polo rules

Players are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool or hand on the sides. Players can hold the ball with one hand, “dribble” it by throwing it in front of them, or pass it to a teammate. Touching the ball with two hands is not allowed, with the exception of the goalkeeper. The ball is not allowed to be taken fully underwater.

Once a team has possession of the ball, they have 30 seconds to score a goal or possession of the ball transfers to the other team (much like how the shot clock works in basketball). Rules also govern what players are allowed to do when they are within a certain distance of the goal. Like in basketball and soccer, fouls are called for violations of the rules.

Example: Water polo is known for being a sport that requires great stamina.

Where does water polo come from?

The first records of the term water polo come from the late 1800s. The only real similarity between modern water polo and the sport known as polo is the objective: getting a ball into the opponents’ goal. However, an early version of the sport that became known as water polo involved players riding barrels in water and hitting the ball with sticks, similar to how polo players ride horses while hitting a ball with long-handled mallets.

Water polo originated in the U.K., where it was also once called football in the water because of its similarity to football (soccer). It was first included as an Olympic event in 1900. Women’s water polo was added as an Olympic event in 2000.

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How is water polo used in real life?

Water polo is known for requiring endurance since players must swim and tread water for the entire game.

Try using water polo!

True or False?

In water polo, players are allowed to hide the ball underwater.

How to use water polo in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for water polo

water polo

a game played in water by two teams of seven swimmers in which each side tries to throw or propel an inflated ball into the opponents' goal
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