French Language Blog

French Vocabulary – Winter Olympics Edition Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Culture, Vocabulary

The games of the XXIII Winter Olympics began last week in PeyongChang, South Korea. And since French is one of the official languages of the Jeux olympique (Olympic games, often abbreviated in French as les JO), I thought we’d take a look this week at some useful French Olympics vocabulary.

Les sports des JO d’hiver / The Winter Olympic sports

There are 15 major categories of sport in this years JO, though since they all come in many varieties, the number of actual competitions (and competitors) is much greater. The major categories are:

Hockey sur glaceIce hockey
Patinage artistiqueFigure skating
Patinage de vitesseSpeed skating
Patinage de vitesse sur piste courteShort-track skating
Ski acrobatiqueFree-style skiing
Ski alpinDownhill skiing
Ski nordique^Nordic skiing^
Combiné nordiqueNordic combined
Saut à skiSki jumping
Ski de fondCross-country skiing

^ Ski nordique is a category that includes the events from biathlon to ski de fond.


L’équipe française / The French team

France is sending 108 athletes to PeyongChang. They will compete in onze épreuves* (11 events). There are no French teams for curling, hockey sur glace, luge, or skeleton.

Et pour finir / Finally

Il fait très froid à PeyongChang! / It is very cold in PeyongChang. So cold in fact that they’ve had to delay some of the events. Recently I came across a new word in French for something to keep your hands warm: mitaines. I was familiar with gants (gloves) and moufles (mitten) but mitaines was new to me. And while I assumed that it was a borrowed word from the English mitten, it turns out that mitaines is an old French world that actually gave us the English word!

* épreuves can mean event as in a sporting contest, but it can also mean a test, a trial, or an ordeal, a test of strength or of character.

Image Credit: By / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name), CC BY-SA 2.0,

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.