de·​cath·​lon | \ di-ˈkath-lən How to pronounce decathlon (audio) , -ˌlän, -ˈka-thə- \

Definition of decathlon

: 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

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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 His Olympic decathlon medals — silver in 1956 and gold in 1960 — were testament to his extraordinary athletic talent. Los Angeles Times, "Appreciation: Appreciating Rafer Johnson as more than a great athlete, but a great man," 2 Dec. 2020 The 1960 Olympic gold-medalist set a world record in the decathlon three times before moving into acting and broadcasting. oregonlive, "The departed: Heroes, celebrities and rogues, from Oregon and beyond, who died in 2020," 28 Dec. 2020 Rafer Johnson, the decathlon gold medal winner at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, died Dec. 2 at age 86. Joel Rippel, Star Tribune, "Sid Hartman, Kobe Bryant and so many more: the sporting lives we lost in 2020," 28 Dec. 2020 In the Sapphic decathlon sequence planting the film’s moral theme, the future Wonder Woman tries to win by deceiving her competitors. Armond White, National Review, "Wonder Woman 1984 Is a Comic-Book Movie for Every Liberal," 25 Dec. 2020 In the end, Johnson turned in his best decathlon yet, beating Kuznetsov and again breaking the world record. Scott Wilson, Los Angeles Times, "Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson, who helped bring Summer Games to L.A., dies at 86," 2 Dec. 2020 Johnson ended up capturing the gold medal in the decathlon by fending off his close friend and U.C.L.A. training partner, C.K. Yang, who was competing for Taiwan. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, "Remembering Rafer Johnson in a Long Year of Lost Sports Legends," 7 Dec. 2020 Johnson set world records in the decathlon three times amid a fierce rivalry with his UCLA teammate C.K. Yang of Taiwan and Vasily Kuznetsov of the former Soviet Union. NBC News, "Rafer Johnson, 1960 Olympic decathlon champion, dies at 86," 3 Dec. 2020 Johnson cemented himself as a worldwide sensation after holding off Yang in the final event of the two-day decathlon in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, "UCLA community remembers Rafer Johnson, ‘the greatest of all Bruins’," 2 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decathlon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of decathlon

1910, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for decathlon

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

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Time Traveler for decathlon Time Traveler

The first known use of decathlon was in 1910

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Statistics for decathlon

Last Updated

31 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Decathlon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of decathlon

: a sports contest for men that consists of 10 different events

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