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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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 The decathlon was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Matthew Ormsethstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 23 Apr. 2022 Marra left in 1992, to coach a U.S. decathlon program that yielded multiple Olympic medalists, but the SFSU track program has remained strong. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Apr. 2022 Jenner won the men's decathlon event at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal before transitioning. Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2022 Only other Purdue medalists are Cathedral’s Chris Huffins, who won a decathlon bronze at the 2000 Olympics and 1999 World Championships, and Lafayette’s Ray Ewry, an eight-time gold medalist in standing jumps from the 1900, 1904 and 1908 Olympics. David Woods, The Indianapolis Star, 19 Mar. 2022 Searching for a new job is like a marathon, coupled with an obstacle course and a decathlon. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 7 Nov. 2021 Jenner, who won gold in the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, became a household name for their role on the reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Alex Weprin, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Mar. 2022 Foster was on a high school track and field team in Plainfield, N.J., with Milt Campbell, who in 1956 became the first Black athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon. David Woods, The Indianapolis Star, 12 Feb. 2022 Setting personal-best marks in two of five events Wednesday, Zach Ziemek of Itasca sits in seventh place after the first day of the men’s decathlon. Stacy St. Clair,, 4 Aug. 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of decathlon was in 1910

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Last Updated

7 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Decathlon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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