ath·​lete ˈath-ˌlēt How to pronounce athlete (audio)
ˈa-thə-ˌlēt How to pronounce athlete (audio)
: a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina
: an animal (such as a horse or a dog) that competes in races or other sporting events or has qualities (such as stamina and agility) suggestive of a human athlete
Hospice working dogs were wiry, muscular, agile, yellowish-tan or brown athletes with unexaggerated heads …Deborah Lawson

Example Sentences

Athletes from around the world will be competing at the Olympics. She was quite an athlete as a child.
Recent Examples on the Web Oddly enough, the 6-foot, 200-poound Linden might not even be the best athlete in his family; his great-grandfather, Thure, played professional soccer for 10 years in Sweden. Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press, 24 Mar. 2023 Whether a young athlete should focus on one sport or play multiple ones has been hotly debated for years. Timothy Dashiell, Baltimore Sun, 24 Mar. 2023 Two bills would also ban transgender college athlete participation. Lia Assimakopoulos, Dallas News, 23 Mar. 2023 The Tentree InMotion 7/8 Pocket Legging is a great choice for the eco-minded athlete. Shannon Ullman, Health, 22 Mar. 2023 The retired athlete started off in the 'Villains' tribe on the reality TV show, and used her alliance with co-stars George Mladenov and Shonee Bowtell to her advantage to stay safe at each tribal council. Alicia Vrajlal,, 22 Mar. 2023 The athlete says he’s been focused on elevating his style outside of the stadium, and was looking for pieces to complement his new sophisticated aesthetic. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 21 Mar. 2023 Once the applause died down, Affleck and his cast answered some questions about the origin story of arguably the greatest sneaker ever produced, inspired by arguably the greatest professional athlete in history. Marlow Stern, Rolling Stone, 18 Mar. 2023 The athlete’s unvaccinated status amid coronavirus restrictions left him unable to play in last year’s U.S. Open. Ellen Francis, Washington Post, 18 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'athlete.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Latin athleta, from Greek athlētēs, from athlein to contend for a prize, from athlon prize, contest

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of athlete was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near athlete

Cite this Entry

“Athlete.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


ath·​lete ˈath-ˌlēt How to pronounce athlete (audio)
: a person who is trained in or good at games and exercises that require physical skill, endurance, and strength

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