French Language Blog

Athletic Vocabulary – Olympic Sports In French Posted by on Jul 12, 2017 in Culture, Vocabulary

The Summer weather has les Jeux olympiques (the Olympic Games) on my mind. Like many people, I don’t follow les sports olympiques (the Olympic sports) outside of les Jeux olympiques, and it’s not a topic that usually comes up in conversations. While thinking about the possibility of les Jeux olympiques à Paris, I realized I don’t know the French word for “100 meter dash” or “track and field”. I decided to look them up and went on to learn what other events are called en français as well!

La langue française (the French language) is one of the official languages of les Jeux olympiques, but it can be easy to miss when you watch the Olympics mainly in your native language. However, if you listen closely you can hear les commentaires français (the French commentary) during la cérémonie d’ouverture (the opening ceremony). The French announcers say the names of all the countries while the athletes enter le stade olympique (the Olympic Stadium).

From le relais de la flame olympique (the Olympic torch relay) to la cérémonie de clôture (the closing ceremony), there are a lot of new words that you have to learn if you want to understand les Jeux olympiques. Without le vocabulaire, even trying to specify the general category of les sports olympiques (the Olympic sports) is a challenge.

Personnellement (personally), I always look forward to les sports that fall under the track and field category. So when I wanted to talk about track and field en français, I had to answer une question importante (an important question):

Comment dit-on « Track and Field » en français ? 
How do you say “Track and Field” in French? 

A quick look at le dictionnaire (the dictionary) helped me answer la question and learn un nouveau mot (a new word):


Malheureusement (unfortunately), le nouveau mot created even more questions as I realized I didn’t know how to say things like pole vault or hurdles. So I decided to make a list to help myself and all of you learn the names of les sports des Jeux olympiques d’été.

Athletics (Track and Field) – L’Athlétisme

100 Meter Dash – Le 100 Mètres
110 Meter Hurdles – Le 110 Mètres haies
Race Walk – La Marche sur route
Steeplechase – Le Steeple
Relay – Le Relais
Decathlon – Le Décathlon
Discus Throw – Le Disque
Hammer Throw – Le Marteau
High Jump – Le Saut en hauteur
Javelin Throw – Le Javelot
Long Jump – Le Saut en longeur
Marathon – Le Marathon
Pole Vault – Le Saut à la perche
Shot Put – Le Poids
Triple Jump – Le Triple saut

Swimming – La natation

Diving – Le Plongeon
Synchronized Swimming – La Natation synchronisée
Water Polo – Le Water-polo
Backstroke – Le Dos
Breaststroke – La Brasse
Butterfly – Le Papillon
Freestyle – La Nage libre
Individual Medley – Les Quatre nages individuel
Freestyle Relay – Le Relais nage libre
Medley Relay – Le Relais quatre nages
Marathon Swimming – La Natation de marathon

Canoeing/Kayak – Le Canoë/Kayak

Canoe Slalom – Le Canoë slalom
Canoe Sprint – Le Canoë slalom

Cycling – Cyclisme

Cycling BMX – Le Vélo BMX
Cycling Mountain Bike – Le Vélo tout terrain
Cycling Road – Le Cyclisme sur route
Cycling Track – Le Cyclisme sur piste

Equestrian – L’Équitation

Equestrian / Dressage – Les Sports équestres / Dressage
Equestrian Eventing – Les Sports équestres Concours complet
Equestrian Jumping – Les Sports équestres Saut d’obstacles

Gymnastics – La Gymnastique

Gymnastics Rhythmic – La Gymnastique rythmique
Gymnastics Artistic – La Gymnastique artistique
Trampoline – Le Trampoline
Floor exercises – Les Exercices au sol
Horizontal Bar – La Barre fixe
Individual All-round – Le Concours multiple individuel
Parallel Bars – Les Barres parallèles
Pommel Horse – Le Cheval d’arçons
Rings – Les Anneaux
Team Competition – La Compétition par équipes
Vault – Le Saut de cheval
Beam – La Poutre
Uneven Bars – Les Barres asymétriques
Vault – Le Saut de cheval

Wrestling – La Lutte

Wrestling Freestyle – La Lutte libre
Wrestling Greco-Roman – La Lutte gréco-romaine

Other Olympic Sports – Les autres sports olympiques

Archery – Le Tir à l’arc
Badminton – Le Badminton
Basketball – Le Basket-ball
Beach Volleyball – Le Volley-ball de plage
Boxing – La Boxe
Fencing – L’Escrime
Football – Le Football
Golf – Le Golf
Handball – Le Handball
Hockey – Le Hockey
Judo – Le Judo
Modern Pentathlon – Le Pentathlon moderne
Rowing – L’Aviron
Rugby – Le Rugby
Sailing – La Voile
Shooting – Le Tir
Table Tennis – Le Tennis de table
Taekwondo – Le Taekwondo
Tennis – Le Tennis
Triathlon – Le Triathlon
Volleyball – Le Volley-ball
Weightlifting – L’Haltérophilie

Les Jeux olympiques de Pairs 2024 may be a few years away, but you can start preparing now to make sure you can enjoy Paris 2024 in la langue de Molière (Litterally the language of Molière, French term for the French language)!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.