de·​cath·​lon di-ˈkath-lən How to pronounce decathlon (audio)
: a 10-event athletic contest
specifically : a composite contest that consists of the 100-meter, 400-meter, and 1500-meter runs, the 110-meter high hurdles, the javelin and discus throws, shot put, pole vault, high jump, and long jump

Did you know?

Decathlon from deca- and athlon, "contest", means "ten contests". The ancient Greek Olympics held five-contest competitions, or pentathlons, that were based on the skills needed in battle. The modern Olympic decathlon, which was born in 1912, consists of the 100-meter run, 400-meter run, 1500-meter run, 110-meter high hurdles, javelin throw, discus throw, shot put, pole vault, high jump, and long jump. The original winner was the legendary Jim Thorpe, who would later be judged the greatest American athlete of the 20th century. And ever since, the Olympic decathlon winner has been called the finest all-around athlete in the world.

Examples of decathlon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Jenner, 74, who won the men's decathlon at the 1976 Olympics, came out as a transgender woman in 2015 and has been a vocal critic of trans women competing in women’s sports since 2021. Natalie Kainz, NBC News, 19 Mar. 2024 American Ashton Eaton defends his Olympic decathlon title, equaling the games record with a surge on the last lap of the 1,500 meters — the last event in the two-day competition. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 18 Aug. 2023 At the Berlin Olympics, the United States finishes 1-2-3 in the men’s decathlon. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 8 Aug. 2023 Days later, another top Ukrainian athlete, the decathlon champion Volodymyr Androshchuk, also died in fighting near Bakhmut. Matthew Futterman, New York Times, 20 Feb. 2023 The closing ceremony was hosted in the Sports Arena by 1976 Olympics decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner. San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Aug. 2022 The Ducks had a couple of near misses on Wednesday as the NCAA meet got underway in Austin, Texas, with the decathlon and mostly semifinals in the men’s competition. oregonlive, 8 June 2023 Through five events of the decathlon, Oregon’s Rafael Raap sits in 16th place, with 3,915 points. oregonlive, 8 June 2023 Ashton Eaton of the United States wins the decathlon world championship title to add to his Olympic gold medal. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug. 2022

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

Word History


French décathlon, from déca- deca- + -athlon (as in pentathlon)

First Known Use

1910, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of decathlon was in 1910

Dictionary Entries Near decathlon

Cite this Entry

“Decathlon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


de·​cath·​lon di-ˈkath-lən How to pronounce decathlon (audio)
: an athletic contest in which each competitor takes part in each of a series of 10 track-and-field events

More from Merriam-Webster on decathlon

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